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APHL supports public health response to monkeypox, phased expansion of testing

Quote that says: “We remain confident that the LRN as a system is prepared for the current monkeypox outbreak in the US and is responding effectively. We also understand that we need to be prepared should the outbreak grow in intensity and support a phased expansion of testing to address the need.”

For Immediate Release

Silver Spring, MD, June 10, 2022 – The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is actively engaged with members of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) that are able to test for non-variola orthopoxvirus. As of today:

  • There are 69 US public health laboratories (all LRN members) able to test for non-variola orthopoxvirus.
  • Those laboratories have the capacity to test 6,000-8,000 specimens per week for orthopoxvirus.
  • At the current volume, orthopox testing is utilizing 2% of LRN capacity.
  • Because there are no other non-variola orthopoxviruses circulating in the US, a positive test result is presumed to be monkeypox. Additional testing at CDC remains beneficial for further characterization of the virus, but implementation of public health measures such as contact tracing and patient care does not require monkeypox confirmation.

“At this point in the monkeypox outbreak, we remain confident that the LRN as a system is prepared for the current monkeypox outbreak in the US and is responding effectively,” said Ewa King, PhD, chief program officer, APHL. “We also understand that we need to be prepared should the outbreak grow in intensity and support a phased expansion of testing to address the need.”

Because monkeypox spreads through direct, sustained contact, contact tracing remains a vital tool in controlling this outbreak. Unlike with airborne respiratory viruses, close contacts can be identified and appropriate precautions can be taken to prevent further spread. Additionally, case reporting allows for public health agencies to track clusters and closely monitor the spread of monkeypox.

“As we focus on the US response, we keep a close watch on the global outbreak. Infectious diseases don’t respect borders, as we know,” said Chris N. Mangal, director of public health preparedness and response, APHL. “I am proud of how LRN member laboratories have rapidly and effectively responded to this emergency. This is precisely what the LRN was intended to do. Should this outbreak continue to grow, preparing for expanded testing and increasing capacity beyond LRN laboratories is important to ensuring we are ready for a surge in testing.”

According to APHL, expanding testing to partner commercial and clinical laboratories should be a phased approach to begin training staff on implementation of the non-variola orthopox test. In addition, it would be critical that commercial laboratories send specific data to public health agencies to ensure that case reporting and contact tracing would continue.

“We will continue working with our federal, state, local and territorial partners in this emergency response,” said King and Mangal. “And should expanded testing capacity be needed, we look forward to working closely with our other laboratory partners as well. This is a team effort to protect the public’s health.”

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The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) works to strengthen laboratory systems serving the public’s health in the U.S. and globally. APHL’s member laboratories protect the public’s health by monitoring and detecting infectious and foodborne diseases, environmental contaminants, terrorist agents, genetic disorders in newborns and other diverse health threats. Learn more at www.aphl.org.

Contact Michelle Forman at 240.485.2793 or michelle.forman@aphl.org

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