Emergency Preparedness

Wanda Reiter Kintz, Ph.D, Emergency Preparedness coordinator, and Rick Bonar, administrative services coordinator, prepare materials as part of a packaging and shipping preparedness exercise.

The State Hygienic Laboratory provides emergency preparedness and response for public health emergencies, including potential acts of biological or chemical terrorism, pandemic influenza, disease outbreaks, and environmental or natural disasters.

The Hygienic Laboratory is part of the Laboratory Response Network, which was founded by the Association of Public Health Laboratories, CDC and the FBI in 1999 to improve readiness for bioterrorism. In addition to responding to events involving unknown substances such as white powders, confirmatory or "rule-out" testing also is performed on clinical isolates in order to identify potential agents of bioterrorism.

During fiscal year 2013, Hygienic Laboratory personnel responded to several events, including white powder incidents at the University of Iowa and at the Federal Building in Des Moines. In addition, 46 clinical isolates were sent for confirmatory testing from sentinel laboratories in Iowa. These labs are based in hospitals and clinics throughout the state, and have direct contact with patients.

A statewide courier delivers routine and urgent shipments from the sentinel labs to the Laboratory's Coralville and Ankeny facilities. In fiscal year 2013, 12,913 routine specimens and 213 urgent specimens were sent to the Hygienic Laboratory for testing.

Other major responsibilities for the Emergency Preparedness program include compliance with the recently promulgated Tier 1 select agent regulations and completion of the 13 required public health emergency preparedness cooperative agreement performance measures. These include drills, proficiency testing, sample collection and packaging, and communication.

The Hygienic Laboratory maintains the Iowa Laboratory Response Network and the Environmental Response Laboratory Network Google groups, which allow for the interaction of laboratorians throughout the state of Iowa. Staff also coordinates and facilitates compliance with the recently promulgated Tier 1 select agent regulations.