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Health Secur. 2019 Sep/Oct;17(5):353-363. doi: 10.1089/hs.2019.0056.

Building Biosafety Capacity in Our Nation's Laboratories.

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Christina L. Chung, MPH, Kimberly Spencer Bellis, MSPH, and Amy Pullman, MPH, MT, are Health Scientists; Angelica O'Connor, MPH, is ELC Program Coordinator; and Alvin Shultz, MSPH, is Branch Chief; all in the Scientific Programs and Development Branch, Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.


The 2014 Ebola outbreak revealed biosafety vulnerabilities across the United States. We distributed $24.1 million to health departments to support public health laboratories (PHLs) and sentinel clinical laboratory partners to improve biosafety practices. We used 9 indicators to evaluate PHLs and associated clinical laboratories from March 2015 through April 2018 using descriptive statistics. On average, over 6 reporting periods, 59 awardee PHLs and 4,040 clinical laboratories responded. By April 2018, 92% (57 of 62) of PHLs had conducted at least 1 risk assessment for work with Ebola and another highly infectious disease. The number of PHLs having a policy for risk assessments increased from 32 of 61 (52%) to 49 of 54 (91%). The percentage of awardees meeting the target (80%) for associated clinical laboratories with staff certifications to package/ship rose from 32% (19 of 60) to 46% (25 of 54). The percentage of awardees meeting the target (70%) for associated clinical laboratories with risk assessment policies increased from 18% (8 of 44) to 28% (15 of 54). Awardees reported improvement among Ebola treatment centers/Ebola assessment hospitals with policies to perform risk assessments from 48% (20 of 42) to 67% (34 of 51). Public health laboratories and their clinical partners made progress on their abilities to address biosafety concerns and implement consistent biosafety practices, improving their ability to work safely with biological threats. More attention is needed to address gaps in the clinical community. Support for biosafety activities is critical to continuing to achieve progress.


Biosafety capacity; Capacity building; Clinical laboratories; Ebola; Public health laboratories


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