Navigation Links
Swine Flu Tests Could Swamp Diagnostic Labs

Might lead to delays in tests for other diseases, experts say

FRIDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Concerns about a swine flu outbreak this fall are spreading to the nation's diagnostic laboratories, which could see a big surge in their testing workload this fall.

According to several laboratory professionals affiliated with the American Society for Clinical Pathology, a large spike in swine flu screenings could clog a lab system already struggling with a shortage of workers. Such swine flu screenings, they said, could slow down testing for other diseases, potentially putting some patients at risk.

"There are now thousands of different tests that doctors can order," said Dr. Michael Laposata, chief of pathology at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville. "The whole issue of sheer workload and labor shortage is playing out in a big way with this H1N1 virus."

At Vanderbilt, a staff of roughly 300 lab technologists and other workers already has been processing an average of 150 to 200 flu tests -- for both swine and regular flu -- a day, most of them from the hospital's pediatric emergency room, Laposata said.

If there's a significant surge in H1N1 swine flu tests, overtime budgets could be stretched at many hospitals, especially small ones, he added.

"Automation in the lab has certainly helped us increase efficiency and accuracy, but a hospital lab is not a big machine," said Laposata, adding that testing could further be compromised if lab staffs fall ill during a swine flu epidemic. "What happens if these techs get sick? Instead of 300 people, we have 40 people. I'm in big trouble."

There are several tests for H1N1, the virus that causes swine flu. They range from rapid influenza diagnostic tests, which can detect influenza viral nucleoprotein antigen in as little as 30 minutes, to more sophisticated polymerase chain reaction assays. All require lab personnel to administer and review results, Laposata said.

At New York University Langone Medical Center, lab workers handled an increase of as many as 300 swine flu tests a week during the initial epidemic in the spring and early summer, according to Irina Lutinger, the medical center's senior administrative director of clinical laboratories. If swine flu becomes a full-fledged epidemic this fall and winter, her staff of 45 in the lab's microbiology department could be forced to handle thousands of H1N1 tests per week, she said.

Much of the concern among lab directors owes to the fact that since at least the 1990s, fewer people are choosing lab work as a career. Even if they do, fewer training programs are around to serve students, experts say.

Citing federal statistics, the American Society for Clinical Pathology says that 138,000 new laboratory professionals will be needed nationwide by 2012, but fewer than 50,000 will be trained. California and other Far West states are weathering a 53 percent shortage of medical technologists in hospitals, commercial labs and other diagnostic facilities; followed by 46 percent in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, and 42 percent in the Northeast.

"When (a lab worker) leaves, you get hit," Lutinger said. "We try to automate, but you need human intellect."

Hospitals like Lutinger's are coping with the potential surge in swine flu tests by drafting contingency plans. During a serious outbreak, all medical tests would be reviewed and prioritized, and excess tests would be sent to outside labs for analysis, she said.

There's also a growing trend among medical professionals and local health departments to recommend H1N1 flu tests only for the sickest patients or for particular surveillance studies.

Emergency room staffers at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, for example, generally reserve swine flu testing for patients who clearly need hospitalization or have serious underlying health problems. Patients who are younger and otherwise healthy are treated and then encouraged to stay home, said Michael Levi, director of clinical microbiology services at the hospital.

Levi said he has no doubt his staff is up to the task, but "if there is the surge issue, that can stress out people."

More information

There's more on H1N1 flu at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Michael Laposata, M.D., Ph.D, chief of pathology, Vanderbilt University Hospital, Nashville; Irina Lutinger, MPH, MASCP, senior administrative director of clinical laboratories, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City; Michael Levi, Sc.D., director of clinical microbiology services, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City

Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. 28 Pregnant Women Have Died From Swine Flu: CDC
2. Swine Flu Could Create Hospital Bed Shortage
3. Swine Flu Expected to Hit Hard - Purell Hand Sanitizer in Stock at
4. Consumer Reports Poll: 43% of Americans Say Theyre on the Fence about Swine Flu Vaccine
5. CDC Links Infections With Swine Flu Deaths
6. Swine Flu Virus Not Mutating, Making Vaccine a Good Match
7. Reportlinker Adds H1N1 (Swine Influenza) Market Assessment (Latest Data, Company Profiles, Implications for Immunoassays and Molecular Assays) Report
8. Swine flu could wreak more havoc on US economy, says UAB economist
9. Could Swine Flu Panic Be Worse Than Outbreak Itself?
10. 1 Swine Flu Shot Enough for Older Kids
11. Travel Precautions Critical During Swine Flu Season
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... A simply groundbreaking television series, "Voices in ... that delves into an array of issues that are presently affecting Americans. Dedicated to ... dialogue, this show is changing the subjects consumers focus on, one episode at a ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... November 27, 2015 , ... The men ... prominent nonprofit healthcare organizations in the country. They have overseen financial turnarounds, shown ... helped advance the healthcare industry as a whole through their advocacy and professional ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... November 26, 2015 , ... Patients ... central Michigan, have come together on Thanksgiving Day to share the things that ... viewing on the Serenity Point YouTube channel, patients displayed what they wrote on ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... , ... November 26, 2015 , ... ... workshops to discuss bioavailability and the need to integrate dose form selection in ... collaboration with OBN, the membership organization supporting and bringing together the UK’s emerging ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... November 26, 2015 , ... ... retro-fused, self-animating trailer titles with ProTrailer: Vintage. This newly styled ProTrailer pack comes ... titles work with any font, giving users limitless opportunities to stylize and create ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... -- --> --> ... potential to save costs, improve treatment quality and accelerate ... exploited as yet. Here, particular emphasis is placed on ... tablet or directly at the patients, bedside. ... -->      (Photo: ) ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... -- Research and Markets ( ) has announced ... 2015-2019" report to their offering. ... the author the present scenario and growth prospects of ... the market size, the report considers revenue generated from ... and copper IUDs. The report forecasts the global intrauterine ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 Un nuevo enfoque ... para el cáncer avanzado.   --> ... fotodinámica de Bremachlorin para el cáncer avanzado.   ... inmunoterapia con la terapia fotodinámica de Bremachlorin para el ... . --> Clinical Cancer Research . ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: