Webinar: health officials to advise labs on testing patients for Ebola

Oct. 6, 2014

Now that the Ebola virus has arrived in the United States, the ability of clinical laboratories to quickly identify patients who need treatment and require isolation will play a critical role in preventing an outbreak. To help labs prepare for this, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) will host a webinar, “Developing a Plan for Specimen Management and Testing of Patients With Emerging Viruses,” on Wednesday, October 7, from 2 pm to 3 pm EST, featuring Nancy E. Cornish, MD, a medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Laboratory Science and Standards. Dr. Cornish helped develop the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Specimen Collection, Transport, Testing, and Submission for Persons under Investigation for Ebola Virus and Disease in the United States, which was written to help labs manage and test specimens from suspected Ebola patients.

Microbiology and point-of-care expert Sheldon Campbell, MD, PhD, will also present during the webinar, and former AACC President Catherine Hammett-Stabler, PhD, will moderate the discussion. Dr. Campbell is director of laboratories at VA Connecticut Health System and associate professor of laboratory medicine at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT. Dr. Hammett-Stabler is a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

The first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside of Africa was confirmed in Dallas on September 30. Now that the virus has spread beyond Africa, clinical testing will be a frontline weapon in the effort to treat patients and contain the disease. As an unfortunate example, doctors initially sent the Ebola patient in Dallas home with antibiotics, delaying his treatment and creating a public health risk that might have been avoided if proper testing had identified his illness.

Diagnosing Ebola comes with unique challenges that many labs would not ordinarily be prepared to face, making it crucial for labs to develop plans ahead of time for testing specimens from suspected Ebola virus patients. A chief concern is the special biohazard handling that Ebola testing requires; labs must perform a delicate balancing act of meeting patient needs while still protecting staff and not compromising care for the other patients they serve who do not have Ebola.

In the webinar, Drs. Cornish, Campbell, and Hammett-Stabler will address these issues, as well as topics such as the importance of distinguishing between Ebola and other emerging viruses, and the role point-of-care testing plays in managing patients with suspected emerging viruses.

Read a superb long article about the Ebola epidemic published in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Read more