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The NAHLN Quarterly |December 2009| 
Volume 1, No. 4


Founding Principles and Features of the NAHLN 


  • Standardized, rapid diagnostic techniques
  • Trained personnel, modern equipment
  • Quality standards, proficiency testing
  • Secure communication, alert reporting system
  • Adequate facility biosafety/biosecurity levels
  • Scenario testing
  • Implemented quality management system

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In This Issue

A Note from the Coordinator
Upcoming Events  
Laboratory Results Messaging
NAHLN Surveillance Update
Annual Report to NAHLN Laboratories 
AVMA Session
QA Update 
IT Update
New Laboratory Director Feature
VS Memorandum 580.4 Flow Charts
Getting to Know Us
Congratulatory Note
NAHLN Facts  

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A Note from the Coordinator

This is the 4th issue of The NAHLN Quarterly.  There have been many times when I didn't think we would make it through this first year, but we did it!  Much of the credit goes to Jill Brown, our NAHLN Program Analyst.  Jill is the driving force behind our newsletter and strives to make each issue better than the last.  Thanks Jill, for all that you do!
This newsletter introduces two new features. The first is a regular update on quality assurance; the second is a summary of disease surveillance activities.
This quarter's article on quality assurance was written by Pat Lukens, the Quality Systems Manager at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.  Pat has provided an overview of the symposia sponsored by the Accreditation Committee and the Quality Committee prior to the 2009 American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) meeting.
A summary of surveillance activities for BSE, CSF, and SIV throughout the current calendar year as well as a biological year summary of the AI wild bird surveillance is also a new feature.  Our intent is to expand coverage to other surveillance efforts in upcoming issues.
When I saw the outline for this newsletter edition I noticed that the NAHLN Program Staff had included a note of congratulations to me for receiving the AAVLD Distinguished Service Award in October.  It's a tremendous honor to have received the award, but I wasn't certain it was appropriate to include the note, so I asked that it be removed.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are many reasons that we should include information about the award. 
While it was my name that flashed up on the screen (and made my face turn bright red), the award really belongs to all of us.  I would not have received the award without the hard work and dedication of so many of you!  Here are just a few that have worked so diligently:  the authors of the original white paper on the NAHLN, all the members of the NAHLN Steering Committee, NAHLN Laboratory Directors and personnel, NIFA representatives, the AAVLD Accreditation Committee, the members of all our NAHLN committees and working groups, APHIS personnel and State Animal Health Officials who directly and indirectly work with our NAHLN laboratories and so many more!  Whenever you're in Ames, feel free to stop by and check out OUR award. 
We'd really like your input on The NAHLN Quarterly.  Please let us know if you have ideas for regular or feature articles or suggestions for improvements.  Feel free to contact me at
barbara.m.martin@aphis.usda.gov or the NAHLN Program Office at NAHLN@aphis.usda.gov
Martin sig line
Barbara M. Martin
NAHLN Coordinator
National Veterinary Services Laboratories 
Upcoming Events
  • April 12-14, 2010:  2010 Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) International Symposium and Workshop, Melbourne, Australia
  • September 8-9, 2010:  First Symposium for the International Society for Companion Animal, Toulouse, France
  • November 11-17, 2010:  53rd Annual AAVLD/USAHA Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota
NAHLN Laboratory Results Messaging:  Where to Start?
NAHLN Laboratory Results Messaging:  Where to Start? 
Let's start by saying this isn't easy.  You will need help along the way.  But if you take the process one step at a time, it isn't impossible either.  The most important thing you will need is the right people on the project.  Very seldom can one person do this alone.  You will want both a computer -technical person who is familiar with your LIMS to handle the connections and a content expert - perhaps a virologist or molecular diagnostic technician - to sort out the data mapping.  Then you will need the resources.  Different people have written various parts of it, but it is all available from the NAHLN Terminology Services
There are two ways to start.  You can either study the concepts in detail and work back to specific testing program requirements or start with the minimum requirement for one testing program and learn as you go.  The first approach is best for larger labs planning to do a lot of messaging or for LIMS vendors planning to support multiple labs.  The Hitchhiker's Guide to NAHLN Messaging is a good starting reference.  The latter approach is probably easiest for everyone else and they would probably want to use the Complete Idiot's Guide to WSAI (or CSF) Messaging.  In either case, you will also need the NAHLN Lab Reporting User Guide.  To get these, as well as post questions on the Implementation Issues forum, you would need to have created an account on the terminology website.
A good starting point for either approach is for your two experts to sit down together with the NAHLN Message Map (Excel spreadsheet) and work through the message one field at a time figuring out where the data will come from in LIMS.  Data in local codes, etc., will need to be mapped to standard terminology, and this is a good place to start as you work out the details of how to construct and transmit the messages.  The Implementation Issues forum is a great place to ask for help from others with the same or similar LIMS, testing loads, etc.  Continue to ask questions.  Both the VS staff and your fellow NAHLN laboratories are here to help.
Questions on NAHLN Laboratory Results Messaging can be e-mailed to the NAHLN Program Office at nahln@aphis.usda.gov and will be referred to the individual(s) that can provide assistance.
Article submitted by Michael Martin, State Epidemiologist, Clemson Livestock Poultry Health, Columbia, SC
NAHLN Surveillance Update
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance.  Since June 2004, seven (7) NAHLN laboratories have participated in enhanced BSE surveillance testing.  As of August 2009, nearly 890,000 tests have been conducted.  The National Veterinary Services Laboratories' (NVSL) Pathobiology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa performs confirmatory testing. 
The table below shows sample testing performed by month for BSE by NAHLN laboratories.  The total number of samples tested for BSE by NAHLN laboratories from January 1, 2009 through November 30, 2009 was 37,833.
2009 BSE Sample Testing by Month
Classical Swine Fever (CSF) Surveillance.  In January 2006, USDA implemented phase one of a surveillance plan developed by the National Surveillance Unit for CSF in states (and Puerto Rico) with a high risk for introduction of CSF.  There are currently thirty-six (36) NAHLN laboratories participating in CSF surveillance testing.  The NVSL's Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) located at Plum Island, New York, performs confirmatory testing.  Over 28,700 samples have been tested since the inception of the program.
From January 1, 2009 through November 30, 2009, 3,363 veterinary diagnostic laboratory (VDL) specimens and 2,343 slaughter specimens have been tested for CSF by NAHLN laboratories.  The tables below compare the actual number (cumulative by month) of VDL and slaughter samples tested to the projected number (cumulative by month) of samples for CSF surveillance.
2008 Symposium
2008 Symposium 
*The actual testing data was taken from the "NAHLN Specimen Test Summary" report in the Veterinary Services Laboratory Submissions database.
Wild Bird Avian Influenza (AI) Surveillance.  Thirty-six (36) approved NAHLN laboratories are assisting the wild bird surveillance efforts for APHIS' Wildlife Services (WS).  The sampling and testing efforts are approximately 75% complete for the biological year, which started on April 1, 2009.  Below you will find a chart which graphs monthly sampling totals over the past three years.  The percentages represented in the graph indicate that sampling is on-track to reach the 44,000 sample total by March 31, 2010.  Data regarding matrix, H5 and H7 detections will be available in the WS annual report once the biological year concludes.  NVSL's Diagnostic Virology Laboratory conducts confirmatory testing.
2009 AI Sampling Update
Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) Surveillance:  Veterinary Services (VS) has developed and implemented a surveillance plan for swine influenza virus (SIV), including the pandemic H1N1 2009 virus* (pH1N1), in swine.  The plan is based on the most current information available on this novel influenza virus strain.  Surveillance is aimed to identify the pH1N1 strain as well as other non-typical strains of SIV in swine.

The immediate goals of the surveillance program are to:  (1) determine if the pH1N1 virus strain currently exists in U.S. swine; (2) determine the distribution, if the pH1N1 strain is present, to inform further policy decisions; (3) detect other novel influenza virus strains in swine in a timely manner; and (4) determine genetic characteristics of novel viruses necessary for vaccine and diagnostics development.
Thirty-six (36) NAHLN laboratories are participating in SIV surveillance activities.
The table below shows the number of samples tested since the SIV Surveillance began in April of 2009.  From April 2009 through November 2009, 309 samples have been tested for SIV.
*Official designation by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
SIV Samples 
 The surveillance information in this article has been provided by USDA APHIS':
National Surveillance Unit
Veterinary Services (VS), National Veterinary Services Laboratories/NAHLN Program Staff
VS, National Center for Animal Health Programs, Swine Health Program Staff
Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Disease Program
Annual Report to NAHLN Laboratories

Annual Report Header

Annual reports for fiscal year 2009 (October 2008-September 2009) are being finalized for each NAHLN Laboratory.  Each report contains laboratory information and accomplishments for their respective laboratory.  This individualized laboratory data includes the following:
  • Laboratory Designation
  • Laboratory Review/Approval Status
  • Disease/Agent Approval
  • Listing of Proficiency Tested and Trained Personnel
  • Surveillance Testing Numbers
  • Messaging Status and Numbers
  • Working Group Updates
  • Listing of Working Group Members from individual laboratory

We anticipate sending the individualized reports in January and would appreciate your feedback.  Additionally, we will collate data (while removing laboratory specific data) for an overall summary report of NAHLN activities during the fiscal year 2009.

 Article submitted by Jill Brown, Program Analyst, NAHLN Program Office, USDA/APHIS/VS/NVSL, Ames, IA
AVMA Session 
The NAHLN and its AAVLD partners participated in the 146th AVMA Convention with a series of presentations provided during the Public and Corporate Practice Session entitled "One Medicine".  The session, which focused on the role of the NAHLN in supporting the One Medicine concept, was entitled "How Does the Laboratory Aspect of Response and Preparedness Impact Human and Animal Health".  The session was organized by NAHLN Coordinator Barbara Martin, moderated by Barb Powers (Colorado Laboratory), and included presentations by Gary Anderson (Kansas Laboratory), Barb Powers, Sharon Hietala and Jim Case (California Laboratory), Rosemary Speers (CNA, Inc.), and Patrick Webb (National Pork Board).  The session generated very interactive discussion from the audience, and was followed by AVMA meeting survey feedback that revealed very high scores for the quality of the presentations and the value of the information provided.
The series of seven presentations included an introduction to the NAHLN and the associated laboratory infrastructure designed to enhance the Nation's early detection of, response to, and recovery from animal health emergencies, including potential bioterror events, newly emerging diseases, and foreign animal disease agents that threaten the Nation's animal populations, food supply, and public health.  The role of AAVLD laboratories in the day to day monitoring of animal health with emphasis on zoonotic disease that may be endemic was also presented.  The critical role of data management and information exchange, as well as the importance of AAVLD accreditation standards, the NAHLN approval process, and maintenance of Laboratory Quality Assurance Systems in insuring a uniform and reliable laboratory response was highlighted by multiple speakers.  Recent examples of the Nation's animal health laboratory surge capacity and technical capabilities that have been used to support Federal, State, and local responses through a series of disease and toxic events were provided in a laboratory lessons-learned format.  The session ended with assessment of the NAHLN response preparedness and future enhancement needs which were obtained by exercising the laboratories with local and regional response partners using Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (A Wing and a Prayer exercise) and Foot and Mouth Disease tabletop exercises. 
The listing of presentations given during the session is as follows:
  • The National Animal Health Laboratory Network - Protecting Animal and Human Health
  • Animal Health and its impact on Human Health and the Food Supply from a Laboratory Perspective
  • Laboratory Response During the California END Outbreak
  • Laboratory Data Management During an Adverse Animal Health Event Response and Recovery 
  • The Critical Importance of Quality Standards and Accreditation in Laboratory Response
  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Table Top Exercise
  • Foot and Mouth Disease Table Top Exercise

If you would like further information on the presentations, please contact Jill Brown at the NAHLN Program Office at jill.m.brown@aphis.usda.gov.

Article submitted by Barbara Powers, Laboratory Director, Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Fort Collins, CO and Sharon Hietala, Associate Laboratory Director, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, University of California, Davis, CA
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Quality Assurance (QA) Update
AAVLD Accreditation and Quality Committees Update
Combining their talents, the AAVLD Accreditation and Quality Assurance Committees held cooperative symposiums prior to the recent October 2009 USAHA-AAVLD Conference in San Diego, CA.  The topics covered in the symposiums were gathered from a survey of Laboratory Directors and Quality Managers around the country and intended to focus on aspects of the AAVLD Requirements where laboratories wanted clarification and further guidance.  The topics presented by members of the Accreditation Committee included preparing for a site visit and what to expect during the audit, ensuring the quality of test results, controlling nonconforming tests, corrective and preventive actions, test methods and test validation, and measurement traceability.  Members of the Quality Assurance Committee presented topics on document control, as this has been a somewhat misunderstood and confusing process for many laboratories.  Their presentations also included how much control is enough, document management and electronic control, auditing document control, and managing training records.
The symposiums were well attended, and very well received.  Evaluations returned after the symposiums are being compiled to see what aspects were considered helpful and how possible future events might be improved.  There were many subsequent requests for the symposium materials therefore they will be posted on the AAVLD website.
At the Accreditation Committee meetings that took place during the 2009 USAHA-AAVLD Conference, Terry McElwain, Executive Director of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University, Chaired the Committee for his final time and announced the new Committee Chair, Beverly Byrum, Director of the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  The Accreditation Committee reviewed site visit reports, lab responses, lab update reports, and held in-person discussions as part of their normal process in accrediting laboratories.  In addition, the decision was made to revise the Essential Requirements document, including changing the name to Requirements, removing the Accreditation Application making it free-standing, and adding a Table of Contents, as requested by the Quality Assurance Committee.  This revision has been posted on the AAVLD website.  The Committee has also developed two guidance documents; one to inform laboratories about the site visit process and the other to compare AAVLD Accreditation to ISO 17025 Accreditation.  These documents, "AAVLD Accreditation Site Visit Overview for Auditees" and "Comparison of AAVLD and ISO 17025 Laboratory Accreditation Programs" are also posted on the AAVLD website.  The Accreditation Committee will meet again in February 2010.
David Korcal, Quality Manager with the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University, presided over his final meeting as Chair of the AAVLD Quality Assurance Committee.  Nominations for a new Chair were submitted to him after the meeting and forwarded for decision to the new AAVLD President, Gary Anderson, Laboratory Director at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.  Names were also accepted for a new Secretary position for the Committee.  The Committee proceedings included an update from NVSL, presentations on Value Stream Mapping, and writing effective SOPs.  Guidance was sought by the Quality Assurance Committee from the Accreditation Committee regarding the calibration of timers.  The Accreditation Committee's position on timers is that if there are time critical elements in technical SOPs, then timers must be calibrated or it must be demonstrated that time is not critical.  During discussion of several other miscellaneous topics regarding quality management, the Committee came up with additional items for clarification from the Accreditation Committee and subsequently formed a sub-committee to work on a guidance document for demonstrating competency.
Posted documents mentioned above appear on the AAVLD website:  www.aavld.org under the "Accreditation Docs for Members Only" page.
Article submitted by Patricia Lukens, Quality Systems Manager, Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
Information Technology (IT) Update

A critical aspect of the NAHLN is the effort to standardize data, improve data quality, and maximize the efficiency of data transfer via the IT infrastructure and data repository.  The NAHLN IT system has been developed with data messaging and standards to ensure that accurate and consistent diagnostic information is quickly and securely transmitted. 

Routine classical swine fever (CSF) test results have been electronically and securely submitted via a web-based system for over three years.  In August 2008, NAHLN laboratories began transmitting test results through standardized electronic messaging.  There are currently 36 laboratories approved for CSF testing and 29 laboratories that are receiving surveillance samples.  Ten of those are sending test results electronically. 

There are currently 54 NAHLN laboratories that are approved for avian influenza testing.  Thirty-six of the avian influenza (AI) approved laboratories are participating in Wildlife Services (WS) Wild Bird AI Surveillance.  The production system for the WS Wild Bird AI Surveillance module was activated in June 2009; eight laboratories are messaging into the production system.  Defects in the system have been detected and must be addressed prior to allowing more laboratories to message.  Three laboratories have completed the steps necessary to electronically message into the production system and will do so when the defects have been resolved.  The defects have not impacted the ability for laboratories to send electronic test results into the test system.   

The graphs below show the percentage of results being electronically messaged for CSF and Wildlife Services Wild Bird AI Surveillance programs.  The remaining test results are being entered via the web-based Veterinary Services Laboratory Submissions database (CSF) or are entered into the system by WS personnel (AI). 

2008 Symposium 

2008 Symposium

Article submitted by Barbara Martin, NAHLN Coordinator, USDA/APHIS/VS/NVSL, NAHLN Program Staff, Ames, IA

Featuring a New Laboratory Director to the NAHLN

In August of 2007, Donald Montgomery became a NAHLN Laboratory Director of the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory and Head of the Department of Veterinary Sciences, at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Dr. Donald Montgomery 
Donald Montgomery 
Laboratory Director of the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory
Montgomery earned a DVM and PhD from Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine in College Station, Texas.  In 1982, he became Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in Anatomic Pathology.  Also in that year, he became Head of the Pathology Section at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in Amarillo, TX.  In 2003, Montgomery became Associate Professor and Pathologist at the Department of Veterinary Sciences and Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory (WSVL) at the University of Wyoming.  In 2007, he was appointed Director of the WSVL as well as Head of the Department of Veterinary Sciences.  In 2008, he was promoted to Professor.
Don enjoys woodworking, hunting, fly fishing, and training and spending time with his two Labrador retrievers, although these days he hasn't had much time for any of those things. 
He has been busy with the planning and logistics for a new building addition to their laboratory.  In July of 2009, WSVL broke ground for the addition which will house a BSL-3 suite with two in vitro laboratories and a necropsy facility.  The WSVL staff is looking forward to completion which is projected for late 2010, or they say, "later if Wyoming has an early winter".  The NAHLN Program is excited about how this addition will add to the Network's laboratory capacities and capabilities.
Don has a special interest in comparative and veterinary neuropathology.  He asks veterinary colleagues to share interesting or puzzling cases.  Serving now in an administrative capacity, he is eager to stay "hands on" in the laboratory so that his skills in using a microscope stay sharp, so send them soon!
When asked what brought Montgomery to the NAHLN laboratory, he responded that it provides him the ability to remain in a full service veterinary laboratory with the added opportunity for teaching and research.  He said that NAHLN is important to him because it is a way for State-supported veterinary diagnostic laboratories to contribute to national efforts ensuring the health and safety of our animal (and human) populations and national security.
NAHLN appreciates the expertise that Don brings to the Network.  Thank you, Don, for all that you do!
Article submitted by Jill Brown, Program Analyst, USDA/APHIS/VS/NVSL, NAHLN Program Staff, Ames, IA
VS Memorandum 580.4 Flow Charts
VS Memorandum 580.4 provides the procedures for investigating a suspected foreign animal or emerging disease incident.  It outlines the foreign animal diseases (FAD) investigative responsibilities of the Area Veterinarian in Charge, the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnosticians, and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories.  The memo was extensively revised and finalized in October 2008.
Flow charts detailing roles and responsibilities and cross referencing the memo have been developed and will soon be available.  Laminated copies will be provided to the NAHLN Laboratories and an electronic version will be posted on the NAHLN website.
Article submitted by Kelly Burkhart, Microbiologist, USDA/APHIS/VS/NVSL, NAHLN Program Staff, Ames, IA
Getting to Know Us
Connie Osmundson, Financial Analyst at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa just celebrated 24 years of Federal Service!  Her Federal career began in October of 1985 as a Clerk for the Avian, Equine, and Ovine Section under James Pearson in NVSL's Diagnostic Virology Laboratory (DVL).  She was later promoted to Lead Secretary of the DVL.  In 1991, she moved to NVSL's Program and Administrative Services group and in 1993, became the first manager of the User Fee program that was implemented that year. 
Her exposure to diagnostics has been an asset in her current position.  Managing user fees involves developing and implementing user fee policies, procedures, guidelines, and protocols.  Connie is also required to analyze, formulate, and compile narratives on all user fee statistics and assists in preparing dockets for publication in the Federal Register.
Besides Connie's leadership in the User Fee program, her duties also include developing and executing agreements of National and International significance.  These include cooperative and interagency agreements, grants, reimbursables, and memorandums of understanding.  Execution of these agreements is extensive and includes development and planning, implementing and obligating, and evaluating, monitoring, and tracking them to completion.  She provides guidance to all levels of NVSL staff as well as guidance and assistance to Cooperators and thoroughly enjoys getting to know personnel from the NAHLN Laboratories. 
In Connie's spare time, she enjoys being outdoors - camping, boating, attending her children's sport activities, and spending time with family and friends.
Providing excellent customer service is a top priority for Connie and she continues to demonstrate just that.  Thank you, Connie, for your tremendous impact to the NAHLN mission and helping us continue to safeguard animal health.
Connie Osmundson
Connie Osmundson, Financial Analyst
Article submitted by Jill Brown, Program Analyst, USDA/APHIS/VS/NVSL, NAHLN Program Staff, Ames, IA
A Congratulatory Note from the NAHLN Program Staff
We would like to congratulate our NAHLN Coordinator, Barbara Martin, on receiving the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnostician's Distinguished Service Award at their annual meeting.  The award recognized the partnerships and collaborations she has developed and nurtured through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
Again, congratulations on receiving this great honor!
NAHLN Program Staff 
The following links show a map and laboratory list of the laboratories that have been approved as part of the NAHLN testing network:
AI Testing Laboratories (54):  Map and Laboratory List
BSE Testing Laboratories (8):  Map and Laboratory List
CWD/Scrapie Testing Laboratories (25):  Map and Laboratory List
CSF Testing Laboratories (38):  Map and Laboratory List
FMD Testing Laboratories (38):  Map and Laboratory List
NDV Testing Laboratories (52):  Map and Laboratory List
SIV Testing Laboratories (36):  Map and Laboratory List
VSV Testing Laboratories (7):  Map and Laboratory List 
For more information on the NAHLN, visit the
NAHLN Home Page
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