At the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), we have about 100 public health laboratory staff who work hard every day to detect critical infectious diseases, test suspicious substances, screen drinking water for contaminants, conduct early identification of genetic and metabolic disorders in newborns, inspect and license clinical and environmental labs across Arizona, and work to ensure our laboratory is operating at full efficiency to make all of this work possible. This week–National Laboratory Professionals Week–we would like to recognize all of our Arizona State Public Health Laboratory staff.

The Arizona State Public Health Lab is a statewide and national public health leader. Our dedicated lab staff work throughout the day, on weekends, and even after hours to make sure that we can receive and test specimens in a timely manner. Recently, staff stayed after hours to confirm a measles case, leading to timely public health control and prevention actions. Back in October, State Public Health Lab staff identified Salmonella in samples of ground turkey – the first lab in the country to confirm the source of a nationwide outbreak, leading to a ground turkey recall.

The lab plays a critical role in protecting babies through the Arizona Newborn Screening Program. The program screens for 29 rare and serious disorders and provides oversight for hearing and pulse oximetry screening, two point-of-care tests done at the hospital/birthing center. These early screens will tell your baby’s doctor whether more specialized testing is needed. In 2018 alone, our lab performed 152,967 newborn screens to help protect the health of Arizona babies.

In addition to core services, the State Public Health Lab rapidly develops new capabilities to respond to emerging public health issues. We were one of the first public health labs in the country to begin testing for Zika virus, have refined methods for identified emerging Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (drug resistant germs that can cause healthcare associated infections), and have recently begun supporting Medical Examiners’ Offices across Arizona by conducting toxicology screenings for opioids.

We offer our thanks to the lab staff who receive the samples, ensure the lab information management systems are functioning, provide critical testing results to local health departments and healthcare providers, and who diligently work to meet the needs and expectations of the customers. Whether it is at our State Public Health Lab or a partner laboratory, please take a moment this week to thank a laboratory professional.