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The NAHLN Quarterly |May 2011| 
Volume 3, No. 1


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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For quick viewing, click below on the articles that interest you!

In This Issue
ZAHN Update
Getting to Know Us
QA Update
IT Update
Surveillance Update
Test Data Dynamics
NAHLN Preparedness
Lab Director Feature
Procedure Manual References
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Upcoming Events


September 29-October 5, 2011:
54th Annual
American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians/
U.S. Animal Health Association Meeting
Buffalo, New York

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Note from the Coordinator 


The NAHLN Coordinating Council recently held a two day strategic planning session; the outcomes will soon be shared with stakeholders for their input.  As I reviewed the notes from the meeting, the progress we've made with the NAHLN was very apparent.  We all recognize the partnerships we've built with our stakeholders are of critical importance to the development of NAHLN. 


But what is it that gives our stakeholders confidence in the diagnostic test results from the NAHLN laboratories?NAHLN laboratories may be involved in surveillance for early detection of foreign animal diseases, surge testing during an outbreak, and testing samples during the outbreak recovery phase. Because of this, there must be a high degree of confidence in the quality of the laboratories and associated test results. 


Why have we been able to change the paradigm that testing for foreign animal diseases can be done at qualified State and university laboratories?  I believe their assurance, and the credibility of the NAHLN, comes from the NAHLN founding principles and that the foundation of NAHLN is based on quality.  Each of the NAHLN laboratories is required to have a functional quality management system that is consistent with AAVLD and international standards (ISO 17025).  The quality management system (QMS) covers all laboratory operations from sample receipt, training of personnel, testing, to communication of test results.  A solid QMS gives us all confidence that test results received from each of the NAHLN laboratories are accurate.  Having a foundation in quality doesn't mean that we're perfect.  It means that we continually look for opportunities to improve our processes and that we have made a commitment to work through problems by discovering the root cause and implementing a plan to ensure it doesn't happen again. 


Last year, we provided QMS training to 87 individuals representing 52 laboratories.  The course was a great success and the curriculum has been used to provide training to our colleagues in plant health.  We're also looking forward to providing QMS training to laboratory representatives from outside the United States. 


Be sure to check out the QA Update article in this edition, by Pat Lukens, Quality Systems Manager at Washington State University's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, focusing on quality training and ongoing competence.  Also note the article submitted by Ty Vannieuwenhoven on emergency preparedness.  Ty is an Area Emergency Coordinator with Veterinary Services and works in both the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota.  We'd like to have regular articles on preparedness.


We appreciate hearing from our stakeholders.  If you have an article you'd like to submit for an upcoming edition of The NAHLN Quarterly, please refer to the Guidance to Authors and contact us by e-mail at NAHLN@aphis.usda.gov or jill.m.brown@aphis.usda.gov.




Martin sig line


Barbara M. Martin


National Animal Health Laboratory Network



Update from the Zoo Animal Health Network (ZAHN)
ZAHN banner

The Zoo Animal Health Network (ZAHN) is preparing to launch the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Avian Influenza Surveillance Pilot Program.  ZAHN is a unique collaboration between the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) Animal Care program, the AZA, and Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo.  Integrated into the national animal- and public-health monitoring infrastructure, it primarily leads research and educational initiatives on infectious diseases that affect the health and welfare of zoo animals and patrons.


ZAHN and USDA recognize the importance of surveillance for highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in zoological institutions.  With their diverse species - including genetically valuable specimens - zoos can provide a unique data source for disease surveillance.  Many zoos feature open ponds with waterfowl, wading birds, and shore birds.  These ponds are also quite attractive to feral mallards, which are known reservoirs of avian influenza viruses.  The surveillance program is designed to target sampling in collection species that may co-mingle with feral birds in zoological exhibits.


Geese at Lincoln Park Zoo
Photos courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

In September, Jeleen Briscoe, the USDA Veterinary Medical Officer working with ZAHN, presented the Surveillance and Outbreak Management Plans to the Illinois and Ohio State and Area Veterinarians in Charge for their approval.  Once written approval was obtained from the appropriate regulatory officials in the participating states, the pilot project began.  Samples submitted from the Lincoln Park Zoo were followed by samples from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  Earlier this year, Sacramento Zoo joined the pilot project.  Three National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) laboratories are currently involved; the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is processing samples from the Lincoln Park Zoo, Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center is processing samples from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory processes samples from the Sacramento Zoo.

All samples submitted to date are negative for any strain of avian influenza.  The link below contains a chart showing species of birds that have been sampled to-date.

The next step involves perfecting Health Level (HL) 7 electronic messaging that will be used to populate the ZAHN test result database.  ZAHN will use the wild bird messaging schema that is currently utilized by the NAHLN laboratories performing wild bird avian influenza testing for Wildlife Services.

The collaborative efforts of USDA and NAHLN laboratory personnel have assisted ZAHN in developing a surveillance-system architecture that could be adapted for other diseases of concern.  This collaboration improves preparedness for emerging disease threats and strengthens the essential link between human and animal health.

If you have any questions about the Zoo Animal Health Network, contact Yvonne Nadler by phone at (312) 742-6600 or by e-mail at ynadler@lpzoo.org.

Zoological Institutions
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland, Ohio
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
The Sacramento Zoo, Sacramento, California

Participating NAHLN Laboratories
Cornell University, Animal Health Diagnostic Center, Ithaca, New York
University of California at Davis, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, Davis, California
University of Minnesota, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, St. Paul, Minnesota

Article submitted by Yvonne Nadler, Veterinary Epidemiologist, Zoo Animal Health Network, Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois 
Getting to Know Us - Elizabeth Lautner

 Elizabeth Lautner, Volume 3, No. 1

Elizabeth Lautner

Director, National Veterinary Services Laboratories



Elizabeth Lautner was named the Director of USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, on May 7, 2006.  In that position, she is responsible for both operations and programs of NVSL.  NVSL is the only Federal facility engaged in the diagnosis of domestic and foreign animal diseases, and has locations in Ames, Iowa, and Plum Island, New York.  NVSL serves as the national reference laboratory for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and as an international reference laboratory for the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 


Previously, Lautner served as Center Director, Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) within the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  She was the first DHS Center Director and served in that capacity from January 2004 until March 2006.  As Center Director, Lautner was responsible for administration and operations of the Center, with a biosafety level 3 laboratory and agriculture facilities with a budget of $50 million, and oversight of the DHS science program at the Center.


Prior to joining DHS, Lautner served as Vice President for Science and Technology at the National Pork Board.  There she oversaw the research and development programs on a variety of animal health and agricultural issues.  Prior to these positions, Lautner was a practicing veterinarian for more than 12 years.  In 1986, she opened her own practice, Swine Health Services, in LeMars, IA, where she provided herd health programs and computerized records for area pork producers.


Lautner received a BS degree and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Michigan State University.  She also has a MS degree from the University of Minnesota.  Lautner is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association (IVMA), and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV).  In 1994, she received the Howard W. Dunne Memorial Award for outstanding service to AASV and the pork industry.  Lautner also received the APHIS Administrator's Award in 1997 in recognition of her contributions to the advancement of animal health.  In 2002, she received the Meritorious Service Award from the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.  In 2005, she received a DHS Under Secretary Award in recognition of her accomplishments in Program Management at PIADC.


Article submitted by Director's Office, National Veterinary Services Laboratories, USDA/APHIS/VS, Ames, Iowa

QA Update - Quality Training and Ongoing Competence


NAHLN and the AAVLD Accreditation and Quality Assurance Committees have been teaming up over the past several years to bring training opportunities to the veterinary diagnostic laboratory community.  This year there will be more opportunities to obtain training through these organizations.  The value of participating in this kind of training becomes increasingly clear as laboratory quality systems evolve and strive for continuous improvement.  Just as effective training is important to assure ongoing competence for technical staff in the laboratory, initial and ongoing training in quality system management and auditing is critical for those who manage and evaluate quality systems.  Quality managers and auditors must have current, timely training for efficient evolution and continuous improvement of quality systems in compliance with applicable standards.


As an auditing group, the AAVLD Accreditation Committee and their Audit Pool members have just completed auditor training specifically designed using the AAVLD Requirements for an Accredited Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory(Requirements).  This kind of training assists auditors in standardizing their interpretations and the intent of the requirements, which contributes to continuously improving the auditing process.  Repeated training is the key, so that knowledge is maintained and issues can be clarified.  The training also provides an opportunity for the accreditation body to examine the Requirements in detail and discuss areas that can be improved or clarified in future revisions.  This benefits not only the auditors, but also the users of the Requirements.


Ongoing training on aspects of quality systems and AAVLD/NAHLN-related topics is important for laboratory staff responsible for managing quality systems and performing internal audits.  For example, effective management of corrective actions to assure thorough root cause analysis is difficult if quality staff who manage the process have not had sufficient training on root cause analysis and corrective actions.  This can result in poor implementation and lack of understanding by the technical staff of the quality processes in the laboratory.  One training session is not sufficient to learn, retain, and use the principles of quality system management.  As quality systems have evolved in each laboratory, training topics have also evolved to focus on areas that require improvement.  Continuous training on topics such as corrective action, root cause analysis, document control, auditing, etc., can assist laboratories in evolving their programs to improve and become more efficient, and prevent stagnation in a quality system that is not in full compliance with the standard.  In addition, ongoing training will improve the effectiveness of the internal auditing process.  It is important that staff members responsible for evaluating critical quality systems elements in a laboratory are trained to recognize and evaluate all the factors thoroughly and appropriately.  Ineffective auditing can result in missing important gaps in a quality system or lead to technical issues that can have a negative effect on the quality of testing. 


When evaluating internal training policies and programs, it is important to consider training not only from the laboratory bench perspective, but also from the auditor's or quality management position.  Technical training and competency are evaluated and documented on an ongoing basis quite well in most systems, but if ongoing training for quality staff is neglected, the training program must be improved.  Training on aspects of quality system management and evaluation result in improvement of individual systems internally and through the external auditing process.  The benefits are continuous improvement of quality for the veterinary medical diagnostic laboratory discipline overall. 



Article submitted by Patricia Lukens, Quality Systems Manager, Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington

IT Update


During the Fall of 2009, the Office of the Veterinary Services' Chief Information Officer (CIO) published the Information Technology (IT) Roadmap to articulate both the current state of VS' disease management systems and a vision for their ongoing evolution.  Initiative 5 of that IT Roadmap, to Modernize Legacy IT Systems, explicitly stated the objective to modernize the Generic Disease Database, specifically by first making a buy-versus-build assessment to determine the most cost effective method of doing so.


Having completed that assessment, late last summer the Office of the VS' CIO initiated a public solicitation for animal health surveillance commercial-off-the-shelf software products that would meet VS' surveillance management needs.  Following an extensive evaluation of the products proposed by the various respondents, the CoreOne product marketed by Trace First was selected as best value to the Government.


The deliverables for the first year of the three year contract include licenses for the CoreOne product, and its installation for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, VS at the National Information Technology Center (NITC) in Kansas City. Missouri.  Also included is the installation of up to 40 more instances, either at NITC or at requested alternate sites.  The potential customers include the fifty States, and all commonwealths and tribal nations.  In addition to the pure installations, the contract also includes numerous support services, such as user and administrator training, technical support, integration of the local and Federal instances, user and security documentation, and a specific amount of data migration from legacy systems to CoreOne.


VS and Trace First recently agreed on a schedule for the delivery of the products and services identified above.  In addition, a working version of the software has also been installed in Fort Collins, Colorado to give our system administrators and subject matter experts the opportunity to become familiar with the product.  Some of the required documentation has already been delivered, the certification and accreditation of the system has been initiated, and preliminary discussions have been held to establish expectations with respect to all of the contract deliverables.


Following the communication of the contract award, a dialogue has begun between the Office of the VS CIO and Trace First and a number of potential early adopters.  Discussions are ongoing with these entities that have expressed interest to determine the details of their potential implementations.


We've begun very preliminary analysis of the impact of the implementation of CoreOne on all of our existing applications, including those that are lab-related.  We understand that the CoreOne software accepts laboratory results through a system-to-system interface, as opposed to a user interface, and then stores them in a child-parent relationship from result to test to specimen to accession.  As we proceed through the execution of the contract, we will continue to analyze the impact of CoreOne on existing applications.


Article submitted by Mike McDonough, Director, Software Services and Delivery,

USDA/APHIS/Office of the VS Chief Information Officer, Fort Collins, Colorado

NAHLN Surveillance Update


The NAHLN has collaborated with other groups in APHIS, such as the National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Wildlife Services, National Surveillance Unit, National Center for Animal Health Programs, and the National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management to implement surveillance programs.  Currently, NAHLN laboratories participate in surveillance programs for wild bird avian influenza (AI), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), classical swine fever (CSF), chronic wasting disease (CWD), scrapieVS' swine influenza virus (SIV), and swine pseudorabies virus (PRV).

NAHLN laboratories play a critical role in USDA APHIS VS surveillance programs by providing rapid standardized testing and results reporting for the above-mentioned diseases that are targeted in national animal disease surveillance initiatives. 

Testing data provided in The NAHLN Quarterly are based on results data that are available at the time of release of the newsletter.  Testing numbers may change in future reports as new information is received and testing data are updated (see article in this edition titled, "Data dynamics within the SIV Surveillance Program, Why do the reports change?"). 


AIWildlife Services' Wild Bird Avian Influenza (AI) Surveillance

The fifth year of sampling wild birds for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) began April 1, 2010.  Wild bird sampling has served as an important early warning system for detecting HPAI in order to protect the poultry industry as well as to establish what low pathogenic avian influenza viruses are naturally circulating in the population.  Samples have been tested across 35 NAHLN laboratories in States where the highest risk of HPAI entry via wild birds was determined based on a number of criteria deemed important by wildlife experts.  Due to lack of funding, Wildlife Services discontinued all wild bird sampling on March 31, 2011. 



BSEBovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance

Six (6) NAHLN laboratories currently participate in ongoing BSE surveillance testing.  BSE surveillance testing by NAHLN laboratories began in June of 2004.  The National Veterinary Services Laboratories' (NVSL) Pathobiology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa performs confirmatory testing. The BSE Ongoing Surveillance system was implemented in September 2006 and replaced the VS BSE Enhanced Surveillance program that was initiated in 2004.  The two primary purposes of Ongoing Surveillance are to continue to assess and monitor changes in the BSE status of U.S. cattle and provide a mechanism to detect BSE if prevalence increases above one infected animal per million adult cattle. 


The table below shows sample testing performed, by month, for BSE by NAHLN laboratories (not including NVSL).  The total number of samples tested for BSE by NAHLN laboratories in the Federal fiscal year (FY) 2010 (October 2009 through September 2010) was 41,899 and 18,370 samples have been tested Quarters 1 and 2 of Federal FY2011 (October 2010 through March 2011).


BSE Surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1 


CSFClassical Swine Fever Surveillance

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary Services' (VS) classical swine fever (CSF) surveillance program was initiated in 2006 to rapidly detect CSF virus and monitor the risk of introduction of the virus in the U.S. swine herd.  The surveillance program targets five specific swine populations for testing:


         Sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs)

         Slaughter swine with high risk of CSF exposure

         Feral swine

         Swine populations with high risk of exposure (including waste feeding operations) in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico

         Swine foreign animal disease investigations as suspicious for CSF submitted to the USDA, APHIS, VS, National Veterinary Services Laboratories' Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) in Plum Island, New York.

NAHLN laboratories conduct CSF surveillance testing for the first two surveillance streams listed above; samples from the remaining three surveillance streams are tested at FADDL.  In FY2010, 22 NAHLN laboratories provided diagnostic testing for the VS CSF surveillance program.

The table below shows the number of animals tested for CSF by NAHLN laboratories in each surveillance target population in Federal FY2008 (October 2007- September 2008) through Federal FY2010 and the first quarter of FY2011.

CSF Surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1


 CWDChronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance

Since 2001, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has worked to develop and implement a CWD program to prevent and control CWD in farmed/captive cervid herds and to conduct surveillance in free-ranging cervid populations to include deer, elk, and moose.  The CWD program includes a herd certification program that involves surveillance strategies to monitor for CWD in farmed/captive cervid herds, to respond to detections of CWD-positive cervids, and to investigate epidemiologically-linked animals.  Interstate movement of cervids is also based on surveillance and herd certification status.


Currently, there are 23 NAHLN laboratories approved for CWD surveillance testing.  The National Veterinary Services Laboratories' (NVSL) Pathobiology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa performs confirmatory testing.


The table below shows the number of farmed/captive cervids tested, by month, for CWD by NAHLN laboratories (not including NVSL).


In Federal FY2010, 14,573 farmed/captive cervids were tested for CWD; an additional 5,415 cervids were tested by NVSL.


In Quarters 1 and 2 of Federal FY2011 (October 2010 - March 2011), 10,314 farmed/captive cervids have been tested for CWD; an additional 3,180 cervids were tested by NVSL.


CWD Surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1


SCRAPIEScrapie Surveillance

The National Scrapie Eradication Program is a USDA, APHIS, VS initiative with the objective of eradicating scrapie in U.S. sheep and goat populations.  Efforts to eradicate scrapie have been ongoing since 1952; in 2001, an accelerated Scrapie Eradication Program was initiated.  Since 2003, surveillance for the program has been conducted primarily through the Regulatory Scrapie Slaughter Surveillance (RSSS) component.


Other scrapie surveillance activities include testing of scrapie-exposed and potentially exposed sheep and goats found through investigations of infected animals; clinical-suspect animals and other mature sheep and goats submitted veterinary diagnostic laboratories; rabies-suspect animals that test negative for rabies; and voluntary on-farm testing of flocks with risk factors for scrapie or as part of the Scrapie Flock Certification Program.


Currently, there are 23 NAHLN laboratories approved for scrapie surveillance testing.  The National Veterinary Services Laboratories' (NVSL) Pathobiology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa performs confirmatory testing.


The tables below show the number of animals submitted, by month, for scrapie testing by NAHLN laboratories (not including NVSL).  Table 1 shows the number of animals tested under the Regulatory Scrapie Slaughter Surveillance (RSSS) Program and Table 2 shows the number of animals tested for other scrapie surveillance (as described above).


In Federal FY2010, 45,598 animals were tested under RSSS.  753 animals were tested for other surveillance (non-RSSS) in Federal FY2010; an additional 1,232 animals were tested by NVSL.


In Quarters 1 and 2 of Federal FY2011, 16,254 animals have been tested under RSSS.  769 animals have been tested for other surveillance (non-RSSS) for Quarters 1 and 2 in Federal FY2011; an additional 786 animals were tested by NVSL.


Scrapie surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1 


SIVVS' Swine Influenza Virus Surveillance

The goals of the USDA, APHIS, VS' swine influenza virus (SIV) surveillance program are (1) to monitor the genetic evolution of endemic SIVs to better understand endemic and emerging influenza virus ecology, (2) make SIV isolates and associated epidemiologic data available for research and analysis, and (3) select proper isolates for the development of relevant diagnostic reagents, updating diagnostic assays, and vaccine seed stock products.  The program was initiated in May 2009 with a focus on monitoring the pandemic H1N1 2009 [pH1N1 (2009)] virus in swine.  As the human health threat of pH1N1 (2009) declined in 2010, SIV surveillance efforts were re-focused on monitoring all current circulating SIVs. Also in 2010, an anonymous submission protocol was adopted to encourage more industry participation and increase the number of samples available for monitoring SIV in the U.S. swine herd.  SIV surveillance efforts are targeted towards these three swine populations:

         Case-compatible sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories

         Swine exhibiting influenza-like illness at first points of concentration or commingling events such as markets and fairs

         Swine populations that are epidemiologically linked to confirmed human cases involving swine influenza virus

NAHLN laboratories provide testing for all of the SIV surveillance streams.  In FY2010 and the first quarter of FY2011, 26 NAHLN laboratories provided diagnostic testing results data for SIV surveillance.  

SIV Surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1 


SIV testing results reported by NAHLN laboratories, FY2011 (year to date)

Number of herds (accessions) tested, number of influenza-positive herds, and number of herds with virus sub-typing results reported in FY2011.

SIV Surveillance 2, Volume 3, No. 1 


Of the 131 accessions with sub-typing results reported--Number of herds (accessions) with each subtype present in FY2011.  One herd in October 2010 and another herd in March 2011 reported mixed subtyping results (multiple subtypes present).

SIV Surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1

PRVSwine Pseudorabies Surveillance

The USDA, APHIS, VS' pseudorabies (PRV) surveillance program was initiated in FY2009 as an extension of VS' successful PRV eradication efforts.  The goals of the PRV surveillance program are to detect PRV entry and infection in commercial swine, demonstrate PRV-free status, and monitor domestic sources of PRV (e.g., via feral swine).  Surveillance data are captured from eight target populations; the target populations and associated objectives are:


Objective 1:  Rapid detection of PRV entry and infection into U.S. commercial swine

  • Sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs)
  • Routine serology and herd profiling
  • Swine populations with high risk of exposure to feral swine
  • Pigs with known feral swine exposure
  • Swine cases reported to State and Federal officials as suspicious for PRV

 Objective 2:  Demonstrate freedom from PRV in commercial herds

  • Cull sow-boars at slaughter
  • Market swine at slaughter

 Objective 3:  Monitoring domestic sources of PRV

  • Feral swine


PRV-approved NAHLN laboratories provide the diagnostic testing for sick pig submissions, routine serology and herd profiling, high risk swine populations, swine with known feral swine exposure, and feral swine.  In FY2010 and the Quarters 1 and 2 of FY2011, 13 NAHLN laboratories provided diagnostic testing results data for PRV surveillance. 


NAHLN laboratories tested 16,305 swine for PRV surveillance in FY2010 and 14,337 swine in the Quarters 1 and 2 of FY2011 (October 2010 through March 2011; this figure does not include testing for PRV in feral swine).

PRV Surveillance, Volume 3, No. 1


The surveillance information in this article has been provided by USDA/APHIS':

Veterinary Services (VS)-National Center for Animal Health Programs,
VS-National Surveillance Unit,
VS-National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) and the NAHLN Program Office,
Wildlife Services-National Wildlife Disease Program
Charts in this article are based on information and test results available at the time of report generation.  Numbers are subject to change due to later reporting of test results and updates in the database(s).


Test Data Dynamics


Data dynamics within the SIV Surveillance Program

Why do the reports change?


Stakeholders who closely check data reported by USDA APHIS VS' National Surveillance Unit (NSU) may note inconsistencies with previous reports.  Why does that happen?  Can't NSU keep the data straight?  Alas, the reasons are not that simple!


First, SIV surveillance is a complex process with a multiple-step testing algorithm, ending in genetic characterization of positive samples.  These characterization results occur over a relatively long period of time, sometimes from multiple laboratory facilities.  At the same time, our stakeholders expect up-to-date testing results, often prior to completing the genetic characterization of positive samples for the purpose of demonstrating financial accountability.  Thus, with a frequent results reporting process, month to month or quarterly discrepancies are not only possible, they are to be expected.


In order to standardize reporting, NSU utilizes the date of sample collection as the reference date for all results subsequently obtained.  Laboratories often receive, test, and/or report on accessions associated with a previous month's collection date; thus, samples may not initially be included in that month's counts.  Data cut-off dates are both necessary and arbitrary, and monthly reports can only reflect what is reported at the time of cut-off. 


Similarly, detailed SIV diagnostic reporting of positive accessions is only finalized by reporting of GenBank Accession numbers.  NSU reports all available data submitted at the time of the monthly reporting cut-off.  Any further characterization information must await the next month's report.  As a rule of thumb, we advise people that positive sample data will not be complete and "hardened" for at least 90 days or more, depending upon when sequencing is completed and final GenBank Accession numbers on the 3 genes of interest (H, N, and M) are reported.


SIV surveillance is a non-regulatory activity which doesn't mandate obtaining definitive and detailed results prior to official reporting, as is required with traditional regulatory decision-making.  Rather, our short-term goals include a measure of participation and an assessment of the array of virus subtypes.  Additional longer-term goals include an accurate picture of individual gene sequence changes over time at a State level of granularity.  Both objectives are met by promptly reporting interim results while later obtaining and reporting more complex characterization results. 


Surveillance data are continuously updated as new information is received, and these data changes reflect a continuous quality improvement process within the maturing SIV dataset.


Article submitted by John Korslund, Epidemiologist and Julie Wallin, Data Analyst, both from the National Surveillance Unit, USDA/APHIS/VS, Fort Collins, Colorado

NAHLN Preparedness:  Are You Leveraging Your Partnership with Your AEC?

Preparedness is a founding principle for the NAHLN.  Similarly, the major mission for the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Area Emergency Coordinators or AECs and their State counterparts is preparedness for livestock and poultry disease outbreaks. They serve as excellent resources and are responsible for the design of systems for early detection, rapid diagnosis and rapid response; ensuring foreign animal disease (FAD) plans are in place; and helping to design, facilitate, and build lessons learned for exercises on implementation.  


Are you maximizing these resources and planning, training, and exercising together?


Picture of Preparedness

About 8 years ago, I was asked what the system of national animal health preparedness would look like if we had it all in place.  The conversation led to ongoing designs of preparedness systems with components that fit into the bigger picture.  The NAHLN laboratories have a key role in early detection, rapid diagnosis, and the efficient response (including supporting business continuity) to a livestock and poultry disease event.  AECs and State animal health emergency coordinators across the country work to design these systems and the NAHLN laboratories' role and tasks need to be identified and included in these systems.   Much of this detail is defined in the National NAHLN Operational Plan and, if not already in the works, should also be in your State's system.



In many States, a working group meets periodically to address animal health emergency management issues and efforts.  Similarly, in many States, the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnosticians meet periodically to discuss case management, investigation processes, and sample submissions.  NAHLN leaders should be key members of both groups.  If you are not already involved, ask your AEC for introductions and invitations to these groups. If these working groups do not yet exist, get involved in their formation.



The capabilities and responsibilities of the NAHLN laboratory are a key component of and should be included in several key State-level plans.  If excluded, this could lead to delay and confusion when there is no reference to activation of the laboratory in these response plans.  Animal Emergency Coordinators should ensure that these plans are in place and current. 


The expansion of VS Memorandum 580.4  in 2008 to allow split sample testing for FAD investigations was a boon for the Nation's ability to respond rapidly to such an event.  It also added the need for a plan for how this would be executed for each NAHLN laboratory.  To further complicate matters, a NAHLN laboratory in an adjoining State might be hundreds of miles closer making it the better option for a rapid preliminary diagnosis. 


Every State has an FAD response plan.  Every one of these should identify the NAHLN laboratory's roles and responsibilities to report, diagnose, and surge to support such an event.  Most States are currently working to detail within their plan how processes and permits will be established to keep animal products moving to allow business to continue as much as possible and testing is a key element.  


Training and Exercising

To support execution of the plans, periodic training and exercising are needed.  Basic skills such as FAD sample collection and packaging as well as more collective tasks such as organizing the FAD response and what the NAHLN laboratory representatives need to know to fit into that organization, are examples of essential training.  Whether it is a periodic discussion-based exercise to define how a specific FAD response would happen, a field exercise to practice FAD response operations, or an internal NAHLN laboratory exercise to practice the steps of surging for FAD response, the AEC is trained in the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) tools and techniques and can help to design, facilitate, and build a lessons learned implementation plan for your exercises.  



The NAHLN laboratory and AEC have a common preparedness mission.  Are you making the most of it?  Contact your APHIS VS Area Office for your State to get in touch with your AEC.


Article submitted by Ty J. Vannieuwenhoven, Area Emergency Coordinator, USDA/APHIS/VS, Madison, Wisconsin

NAHLN Laboratory Director Feature




Rick Fredrickson, Jr.

Laboratory Director

University of Illinois


Featured NAHLN Laboratory Director:  Rick Fredrickson, Jr.


Academic/Laboratory Background:  Fredrickson received bachelor degrees from Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, in Ag Mechanization (1983) and Dairy Science (1985).  He received his DVM (1990) and MS in Veterinary Toxicology (December 1990) also from Iowa State University.  Upon graduation, he worked as an associate veterinarian in private practice in western Illinois for 4 years, and then opened his own private practice in southeastern Illinois in 1994.  In 1999, he accepted a pathology residency at the University of Illinois and completed the program in 2002.


In February 2002, he accepted the position of Clinical Assistant Professor in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL), College of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois.  In 2005, he became the section head of Pathology and the Histopathology Laboratory and in January 2009, became the Assistant Director.  In February 2011, Fredrickson accepted the position as Director of the VDL, University of Illinois.


What brought you to the NAHLN laboratory?

"The opportunity to return to an academic setting and focus on quality diagnostic medicine with two of my mentors:  Drs. John Andrews and Gavin Meerdink.  In addition, it provides me the opportunity to teach and share my background and experiences in private practice with some of the young people who will be the future of this profession.  This setting allows me to stress the importance on a day to day basis of diagnostic laboratory capabilities and the many aspects we can offer to assist the referring veterinarian and their clients."


Do you have any hobbies that you'd like to share with us?

"I have coached youth athletics since 1986.  I started with 10-12 year old athletes in baseball, basketball, and football.  This has evolved into the opportunities to coach my son during the summer in highly competitive travel baseball attending tournaments in the surrounding states and being the assistant boys' varsity basketball coach at the high school that my son attends.  In addition, I get to coach my daughters in basketball as I am also the girls' junior high basketball coach.  I also enjoy hunting and working with the livestock and horses on my farm."


Lastly, why is NAHLN important to you?

"I feel NAHLN is the opportunity to link the Federal government and its programs to state and university-supported diagnostic laboratories.  I think the value of diagnostic laboratories and their role in the day to day monitoring of animal disease and public health, including the protection and monitoring of the public food supply, is extremely important.  NAHLN is making a concerted effort to standardize testing procedures and protocols for certain diseases and with their organization, coordination, and support, this will allow the state and university laboratories to be better prepared to handle and monitor animal health."


Interviewed by the NAHLN Program Office, USDA/APHIS/VS/NVSL, Ames, Iowa

NAHLN Procedure Manual References


Below you will find various NAHLN Procedure Manuals, the date of the latest version, and either a weblink or contact where they are available:


Classical Swine Fever Surveillance Procedure Manual, latest version dated April 2007


Pseudorabies Surveillance Procedure Manual, Version 1.3, latest version dated October 2010


Procedure Manual for Vesicular Stomatitis Viruses (VSV), latest version dated January 2008


Influenza Surveillance in Swine Procedures Manual, latest version dated July 2010




Archived issues of  The NAHLN Quarterly

The following links show a map and laboratory list of the laboratories that have been approved as part of the NAHLN testing network(including NVSL):

AI Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
BSE Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
CWD/Scrapie Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
CSF Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
FMD Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
NDV Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
SIV Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List
VSV Testing Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List 

Original 12 NAHLN Laboratories:  Map and Laboratory List

For more information on the NAHLN, visit the NAHLN Homepage

Acronym Key

Click Here for Acronym Key for Volume 3, No. 1 


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