Nebraska Public Health Laboratory technologists test clinical specimens that had the potential to contain high-risk pathogens.
The College of American Pathologists recently reaccredited the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) following a stringent inspection. The lab is located on the UNMC Omaha campus. The lab is one of more than 7,700 accredited facilities worldwide. During the inspection process, which is designed to ensure the highest standard of care for laboratory patients, inspectors audit lab records and quality control procedures as well as examine lab staff qualifications, equipment, facilities, safety program and overall management. Successful accreditation highlights the quality of the staff that work at the NPHL, said Pete Iwen, Ph.D., director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, and professor in the UNMC Department of the Pathology and Microbiology. "Adhering to accreditation standards is an ongoing daily function of the laboratory," Dr. Iwen said. "The biennial inspection process is an additional activity that requires outside inspectors to audit the laboratory to make sure that federal requirements are followed." The NPHL is unique among other state public health labs in that it is administratively supported by UNMC and operates as a fee-for-service laboratory with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. It provides human specimen testing and limited environmental source testing and consult, monitor and detecting infectious disease outbreaks as well as test for potential bioterrorism and chemical terrorism events. During the Ebola virus disease outbreak in 2014, NPHL personnel coordinated laboratory testing of specimens for Nebraska Medicine Ebola patients -- the first time a state public health laboratory tested Ebola virus positive specimens in the U.S. They also were the first laboratory in the U.S. to safely process and transport known Ebola virus infected specimens to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using a commercial courier. NPHL personnel have become national leaders in the handling and testing of Ebola virus infected specimens and serve as laboratory trainers in the National Ebola Training and Education Center at UNMC.