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College of American Pathologists Is Confident in U.S. Laboratories' Ability to Respond to Influenza Outbreak

NORTHFIELD, Ill., April 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Long regarded as the gold standard in monitoring medical laboratory performance, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) believes that the nation's laboratories will be able to adequately process and handle influenza cases and adapt to evolving guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Their readiness is demonstrated through the CAP's Proficiency Testing (PT) program. The College's program is the largest laboratory peer comparison program in the world, routinely helping laboratories evaluate their performance and improve the accuracy of the patient results they provide.

The College provides individual laboratories with unknown specimens for testing. Participants analyze these specimens and return their results to the CAP for evaluation. Each participating laboratory receives a report of its performance as well as a report summarizing the results from all participating laboratories.

Four of these PT programs test proficiency in influenza testing, although not specifically for the swine flu strain. The College data about the capability of U.S. labs to detect influenza A indicate a high degree of proficiency among America's labs, and laboratory testing for influenza is the key to quickly detecting disease and protecting public health.

In addition, after 9/11, the College partnered with the CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) to create a Laboratory Preparedness Exercise which tests the strength of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN). The LRN is a system of designated laboratories established to enhance early detection and surveillance activities, as well as increase laboratory response capacity associated with a potential pandemic or bioterrorism threat. In the United States, the LRN--a system of 1,500 laboratories throughout the 50 states--enables earlier detection of flu cases and allows public health agencies to investigate sources of infection more quickly and, therefore, more effectively respond with control and prevention activities.

A potential pandemic virus is defined, among other things, as a novel strain that is not easily treated. While novel, this strain of swine flu responds to two medications. To reduce the risk of spreading or contracting swine flu, Americans should practice good hygiene, including frequent hand washing and should stay home from school and work when sick, as well as follow the guidance of local public health officials regarding the closing of public venues and events.

The College of American Pathologists is a medical society serving more than 17,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world's largest association composed exclusively of board certified pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The College is an advocate for high-quality and cost-effective medical care.

SOURCE College of American Pathologists
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