Lab Matters Winter 2020 - Page 11

FEATURE On January 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first US case of a novel, SARS-like coronavirus that has infected thousands of people in China, killing hundreds. The respiratory bug was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, but quickly spread throughout Asia, from South Korea to Singapore. It took only a few weeks to reach the US mainland in Washington State and just a few days more to show up in Chicago and then California. Yet, despite the alarm raised by the novel virus—US authorities are already screening passengers arriving from China at select US airports—some state public health laboratories will be challenged to test for it. The Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS), for example, has experienced a steady erosion of federal funding for non-influenza respiratory virus testing, which includes testing for coronaviruses. Denise Toney, PhD, who heads the laboratory, explained, “If [a pathogen] isn’t flu and we want to rule out all the other viruses, we now have to prioritize and limit the testing to be most efficient with our reduced resources.” by Na ncy Ma dd ox , M PH , w rite r PublicHealthLabs @APHL APHL.org Winter 2020 LAB MATTERS 9