Laboratorian Participates In University Hygienic Laboratory Bioterrorism Workshop

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A clinical laboratorian was one of 29 scientists who participated in the University Hygienic Laboratory's "Identification of Bioterrorism Agents: Wet Workshop" March 27-28 at the UHL Iowa Laboratory Facility in Ankeny.

Laboratorians are skilled laboratory workers who specialize in environmental and public health.

The workshop drew laboratorians from across the state for hands-on practice in identifying, testing and packaging agents that may potentially be used in biological and chemical terrorism.

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"The scientists who completed this training work in Iowa's sentinel laboratories, which are generally located in hospitals and are on the front line of detection of a biological terrorism or outbreak event," said UHL Interim Director Chris Atchison. "Through this hands-on experience in identifying and handling these agents they will be far better prepared to identify and respond to the threat of terrorism."

There are 143 sentinel laboratories in Iowa. This is the fourth year UHL has hosted the training that combines lecture and lab experience, giving scientists an opportunity to refine techniques used in collecting and handling specimens, identifying infectious substances, and notifying authorities if an agent of bioterrorism is suspected.

"Wet workshops are designed to give the clinical laboratorian hands-on experience with the identification methods for Category A organisms," explained Bonnie Rubin, UHL emergency preparedness and terrorism response coordinator. "Category A agents are those organisms and toxins that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put as the top concerns for potential bioterrorism, including anthrax, botulism and smallpox.

"In addition to practical experience using the identification tools, laboratorians received updates about the chemical terrorism response laboratory network and information about timely issues related to emerging organisms and pandemic influenza planning," Rubin said.

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