Laboratory Pandemic Preparedness: Maintaining a Warm Base

by Kelly Wroblewski

Click to listen to Maintaining a Warm Base Discussion

Laboratory results play a critical role in guiding public health decisions both between and during influenza pandemics. Laboratory test results influence a myriad of decisions – from the closing of local schools to changing treatment and testing guidance for physicians at a national level. As clearly demonstrated with the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, during a crisis, laboratories will be expected to respond to a greatly increasing number of test requests and may be required to rapidly implement new diagnostic tools. However, these capabilities cannot be deployed during a pandemic without proper pre-pandemic planning or the maintenance of a “warm base” including: (a) a cadre of competent laboratorians who are trained on the appropriate assays; (b) the availability of up-to-date equipment and instrumentation that serves not only routine testing needs but also has the capacity to accommodate a testing surge; and (c) diagnostic assays that canentify multiple – and sometimes unknown – strains of the influenza virus.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) have been working for the past decade to ensure that a warm base was built and maintained within Public Health Laboratories by developing assays, holding trainings, developing and utilizing laboratory capacity models, building intra-state communication systems, as well as introducing several other initiatives. That warm base allowed for an effective laboratory response to the H1N1 pandemic. The surge in emergency funding following the pandemic outbreak allowed laboratories to strengthen the infrastructure that had been tested during the crisis. However, if the strides that have been made over the past ten years are to be sustained, then ensuring continued funding to maintain the “warm base” for laboratories is critical.

Dan Jernigan, M.D., Deputy Director for the Influenza Division at CDC, and Peter Shult, PhD, Director of the Communicable Disease Division and Emergency Laboratory Response at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, join Kelly Wroblewski, MPH, Director of Infectious Disease Programs at APHL in discussing: the vital role of public health laboratories in influenza pandemic response; how building a warm base ensures the ability of laboratories to respond; and ongoing efforts to maintain the laboratory pandemic preparedness.

This podcast offers participants a better understanding of: (a) the importance of laboratory results during and between influenza pandemics; (b) the need for pandemic preparedness in implementing an appropriate public health response; and (c) the ongoing activities that are helping to ensure that the U.S. public health system continues to be prepared to respond to future influenza pandemics.


For additional information on:

APHL, visit

“Lessons from a Virus: Public Health Laboratories Respond to the H1N1 Pandemic,” visit

CDC Recommendations on all types of influenza pandemic planning, visit

“APHL Position/Policy Statement: Standardized Validation of Screening Kits and Devices for Use in the Field toentify Hazardous Biological and Chemical Agents,” visit

________________________ Kelly Wroblewski, MPH, MT (ASCP) is the Director of the Infectious Disease Program at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). She received her Masters of Public Health (MPH) from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and her bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology from the University of Scranton. She joined APHL in 2008 as the Manager of HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Tuberculosis Programs. Prior to joining APHL, she worked as a microbiologist in several clinical and research laboratories.