Lincoln – The Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), established in 1913, has faithfully served Nebraskans, including during the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 pandemics, for more than a century. September, which is Public Health Lab Appreciation Month, gives Nebraskans an opportunity to recognize all the valuable services performed by NPHL.
A cooperative partnership between the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Nebraska Medicine since 1997, the partnership has provided testing and support for state-sponsored prevention programs for the detection of sexually transmitted diseases, enteric diseases such as salmonellosis, and respiratory diseases such as influenza.
In 1999, testing at NPHL was expanded to include testing for bio-threats in environmental samples and the detection of chemical agents in human specimens through grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) This unique arrangement between UNMC and NE-DHHS has leveraged expertise of existing UNMC personnel and state-of-the-art equipment for the benefit of all Nebraskans.
COVID-19 has been NPHL’s main focus for the last year and a half, and NPHL has administered over 100,000 COVID tests for Nebraska and does 80% of its sequencing to ID current and new variants.
“The NPHL has always been dedicated to protecting the health and safety of Nebraskans through diagnostic laboratory science, technology, and education,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, chief medical officer for DHHS. “In the earliest days of COVID-19 in the US, the NPHL helped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develop the gold-standard assay for the US response. At the time, NPHL was one of the first three public health labs in the US to run the CDC SARS-CoV-2 PCR assay and had some of the first confirmed positive specimens in the US, which CDC requested for further study. Public health laboratories are the invisible key to public health.”