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U.S.-based labs’ concerns about biosafety came into sharp focus during the Ebola epidemic in 2014 when an infected patient traveled from Liberia, and staff caring for him at a Dallas hospital contracted the deadly virus. Now, as labs continue to stay vigilant about biosafety risks comes an AACC University course on July 30, Making your Core Lab Safe from Ebola and Zika (191006), in which a trio of lab, public health, and infectious diseases experts will explore guidelines and best practices in assessing and mitigating biosafety risks.

A working group on biosafety sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and hosted by the Association for Public Health Laboratories (APHL) was the genesis for the AACC University course, said session moderator Bonny Van, PhD, vice president for laboratory operations at LifeOmic in Indianapolis, who will be discussing biosafety toolkits for labs.

Joining Van will be Andrew Cannons, PhD, HCLD (ABB), laboratory director of the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories in Tampa, Florida, who will discuss state public health labs as a biosafety resource, and James Snyder, PhD, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Louisville, who will present “Bad Bugs Don’t Stay in the Micro Lab.”

The APHL working group was created to increase biosafety in all laboratories. “But there is a recognition that clinical labs are managed under a different set of standards than are public health labs, including the CDC, and that stringency to control infectious organisms are different,” Van said.

Van became involved with the group while she was still a public health lab director and as an AACC member. “So in essence I represented both sides of the fence for this issue,” she said.

The course’s title is meant to be provocative, she continued. “While we will touch on highly infectious organisms such as Ebola, the purpose of the session is to raise general awareness about the possibility of encountering a clinical specimen from a patient who was not previously identified to have that highly infective agent,” Van said. Labs should assume that all specimens are highly infectious and use universal precautions as intended.

Presenters will also offer specific examples on improving exposure control, and other information and resources of use to lab managers, safety officers, and directors in keeping their labs safe.

“Ebola is scary, but we know what it is,” Van said. “There are many more infectious agents that we have yet to identify and countless other organisms that were once thought to be rather harmless.”

Becoming infected with multidrug resistant organisms can become life-threatening suddenly, underscoring the need for strict exposure control, she stressed.

AACC University courses take place during the day on Sunday before the official start of the 69th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo and before other scientific sessions start on Monday. Courses require an additional registration fee above regular attendance. Register for the 69th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo and learn best practices for maintaining your lab’s biosafety.