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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2010 Nov;134(11):1671-8. doi: 10.1043/2010-0134-CPR.1.

A survey-based assessment of United States clinical laboratory response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak.

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Department of Pathology, St JudeChildren's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105-2794, USA.



The recent outbreak of pandemic influenza created enormous economic, logistical, and analytical challenges for clinical laboratories. Laboratory response represented a critical element in the care of affected patients, but little has been published regarding this aspect of the pandemic.


To assess the overall response of clinical diagnostic laboratories across the United States to the initial phase of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A pandemic.


A 24-question survey was developed and distributed by e-mail to determine current influenza testing practices and how those practices were changed in response to the outbreak of 2009 H1N1 influenza. The survey was distributed to participants in the College of American Pathologists proficiency testing programs related to viral diagnostics. Survey questions focused on laboratory safety, communication of results, testing volume and resources, and whether changes in resource allocation or laboratory practice were anticipated in preparation for the 2009-2010 influenza season.


A total of 24.3% (931) of laboratories responded to the survey. Overall, few laboratories reported changes in methodology in response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak, although, notably, the number of centers using molecular amplification methods more than doubled, from 41 to 91. Turn-around time for result reporting and safety methods used were largely as expected for individual testing modalities. Shortages in staffing, testing supplies, and personal protective equipment were reported, but most sites were able to maintain operations and did not feel that patient care was negatively affected.


This report provides a comprehensive picture of clinical laboratory responses in the early stages of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. These data should assist in the continued laboratory management of this outbreak and in planning for future emerging infections.

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