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D.C.’s Public Health Lab Moves onto Front Lines in Fight Against Terrorism

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Becomes top-tier member of nationwide Laboratory Response Network

(Washington, D.C.) The District’s Public Health Laboratory has been approved by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be a top-tier member of its Laboratory Response Network (LRN), joining 10 existing facilities nationwide as the front-line defense to respond to bioterrorism, chemical terrorism, and other public health emergencies.

“The CDC’s LRN provides effective laboratory response to bioterrorism by helping public health labs become and remain competent to test these types of samples,” said Dr. Max Houck, Director of the District’s Department of Forensic Sciences, of which the Public Health Laboratory is a division.

LRN was founded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Association of Public Health Laboratories, becoming operational in 1999. It is an unprecedented linking of local public health laboratories, veterinary, agriculture, military, and water- and food-testing labs.

There are now 54 labs in the United States that are part of the LRN. The District’s PHL becomes the nation’s 11th Level 1 Laboratory. These serve as surge-capacity labs for the CDC and can detect cyanide, nerve agents, mustard agents, and many toxic metals and industrial chemicals.

“That the DFS Public Health Laboratory achieved Level 1 in its first year is astounding – I am so very proud of our team, led by Dr. Alpha Diallo, for their hard work,” said Dr. Houck. “This means that local, regional and federal governments can rely on DFS to make our streets and our nation safer.”

The Public Health Laboratory’s approval to join the LRN follows the November announcement that the DFS division was authorized by the CDC to open the national capital region’s first Biosafety Level 3 lab.