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The NAHLN Update |2012| 
Volume 4, No. 2



Founding Principles and Features of the NAHLN 


  • Quality management standards
  • Competency of laboratory personnel
  • Standardized diagnostic techniques
  • Reference materials and equipment
  • Secure communications and reporting system
  • Adequate facilities to ensure biosafety/biosecurity levels
  • Assessment of preparedness through scenario testing


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


In This Issue
Note from the Coordinator
Words of Thanks to Barb Martin
Overview of Concept Paper and Next Steps
In Memory of Dr. Alex Bermudez
QA Update
Getting to Know Us
NAHLN Portal Update
LCEM and Next Steps
VS Surveillance Update
WS Surveillance and Emergency Response
Wildlife Specimen Workshop Highlights WS and NAHLN Collaboration
Procedure Manual References
Acronym Key

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Upcoming Events



February 6-9, 2013 

Cattle Industry Convention, Tampa, FL


April 15-18, 2013

National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) Annual Conference, The Galt House, Louisville, KY


June 5-8, 2013

16th International Symposium of the World Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (WAVLD), Berlin, Germany.  For more information, go to www.wavld2013.de or www.wavld2013-berlin.com.


July 19-23, 2013

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Annual Conference, Chicago, IL


October 17-23, 2013

117th USAHA/56th AAVLD

Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA


Note from the Coordinator 


10 Years of Successful Partnership

When the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) was established in 2002, a set of founding principles was established to guide our efforts and support our mission.  Over the past 10 years, our activities have continually supported those principles.  A decade of partnership and collaboration brought about significant progress and advanced capabilities, but the foundation upon which NAHLN was built remains the same.  As NAHLN celebrates its 10th anniversary, it is important to reflect on our accomplishments and look to the future.

Quality Management Standards
We've demonstrated our commitment to quality laboratories and test results throughout our existence.  Activities have included:  establishing a laboratory review process in conjunction with the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) Accreditation Committee; requiring all NAHLN laboratories to implement and continually improve a quality management system (QMS) consistent with international standards; developing and providing QMS training to representatives from NAHLN laboratories, other laboratory networks, and international participants; and developing QMS distance learning modules.

Competency of Laboratory Personnel
NAHLN relies heavily on a Train the Trainer program, leading to a significant increase in the number of personnel trained and proficiency tested-from 24 to hundreds network-wide.  As a result, our Nation is better prepared to respond to an adverse animal health event.  For example, since Federal fiscal year (FY) 2004, the number of NAHLN-approved laboratories has increased from 12 to 38, and the number of approved analysts for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and classical swine fever (CSF) has increased from 24 to 167. 
Standardized Protocols, Equipment, and Reference Materials 
The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) developed, coordinated, and administered standard operating procedures (SOPs) and provided reference materials, including proficiency tests.  This ensures comparable diagnostic test results across the network.  The NAHLN Methods Technical Working Group (MTWG) has developed processes for methods comparison; reviewed processes related to the release of NAHLN SOPs; discussed critical gaps in assays and related projects; and evaluated projects related to NAHLN capabilities and capacities.  Additionally, the MTWG reviews all data related to assay validation and provides recommendations for use of new or modified diagnostics in NAHLN laboratories.

Secure Electronic Communications and Reporting
NAHLN information technology (IT) experts have created a system for messaging test results in a standardized Health Level 7 (HL7) format, providing for centralized, standardized laboratory data across the network.  Additional IT tools have been developed to capture individual laboratory and network capacity and serve as a secure mechanism for sharing information through the NAHLN Portal.

Adequate Biosafety/Biosecurity and Assessment of Preparedness through Scenario Testing
Animal health professionals across the United States have participated in an extensive series of avian influenza and FMD tabletop exercises.  These exercises have helped improve processes, guidance, and overall preparedness for a foreign animal disease outbreak.  The exercises have also helped to prioritize gaps, resulting in assay development to address the gaps.


Application of Founding Principles
We used the founding principles when implementing national surveillance programs. We've partnered with stakeholders to conduct testing for wild bird avian influenza, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, classical swine fever, chronic wasting disease, pseudorabies, scrapie, and swine influenza.  A number of additional assays have been deployed for emergency preparedness, such as the FMD PCR that can be used during foreign animal disease investigations. These advancements would not have been possible without our partners.


Please click on the following link to the NAHLN 10th Anniversary Summary!


This is the last newsletter you will receive with me as NAHLN Coordinator.  I am retiring after 30 rewarding years with USDA.  It's exciting to look at the next chapter in my life and to know that NAHLN is on a firm foundation because of our joint efforts.  Thanks so much for your support and input! 


Martin sig line


Barbara M. Martin


National Animal Health Laboratory Network



Words of Thanks to Barb Martin, NAHLN Coordinator


Barb Martin

Barb Martin holding her retirement plaque, presented to her for over 30 years of service to the USDA

Photo Courtesy of Jim Fosse


The NAHLN Program Staff would like to thank Barb Martin for her significant contributions to the NAHLN mission.  Her initial vision for the NAHLN has remained constant since the early years and we have been inspired by her commitment, perseverance, passion, enthusiasm, and creativity.   Through her leadership and guidance, she has created a resilient network based on partnerships that will carry us well into the future.


We wish her well in her retirement and the adventures to come in this new chapter!


See additional thoughts and well wishes below from other NAHLN stakeholders:


"On behalf of NVSL, I would like to congratulate Barb on her upcoming retirement and thank her for her tremendous energy and dedicated work with our partners to make NAHLN the success it is today.  Her contributions have made a significant impact on our U.S. animal health emergency preparedness and response capabilities.  Her leadership and collaborative spirit have leveraged resources across the U.S. to work towards a common goal.  We wish you the very best in your retirement from USDA and congratulations on your successful career!"

Beth Lautner, NVSL Director



"Barb Martin has close ties and a long history with the NVSL Diagnostic Bacteriology Laboratory (DBL).  She began her efforts in support of the fledgling NAHLN at a time when she was serving as the Team Leader for the DBL Brucella and Mycobacterium Reagents Team.  Barb worked tirelessly in those early years to help shape the future of the NAHLN.  Her past experience with administering the Brucellosis Serology Proficiency Testing Program with State and Federal laboratories undoubtedly served her well as she helped to formulate and implement the NAHLN model of approving laboratories to perform standardized tests.  This model has also been adopted at the NVSL for diseases not officially under the NAHLN umbrella, such as the Equine Piroplasmosis Proficiency Test and laboratory approval programs administered by the DBL.  We wish Barb the best in her future endeavors, secure in the knowledge that she will excel at whatever she chooses to do and wherever her path leads."

Dave Kinker, Head

Serology Section

Diagnostic Bacteriology Laboratory



 "Barb's personal commitment to the success of the NAHLN can be seen in the many important strides the NAHLN has made over the last ten years.  What began as a nascent network of 12 laboratories with an acronym no one recognized nor could pronounce has become the foundation of a comprehensive animal surveillance/surge ready network, with a name recognized around the country no matter how it is pronounced.  Barb - we would not be here without your leadership and energy!"

Tom McKenna

Director, Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

President, AAVLD


"The task of establishing a network of Federal, State, and university laboratories to respond to old and emerging animal disease threats seemed almost insurmountable when first proposed in 2002.  It was Barb's leadership, organizational and people skills that paved the way to the network as it exists today."

Bev Schmitt

Director, Diagnostic Virology Laboratory



"Barb, best wishes as you transition to your retirement.  Thank you for your outstanding efforts that have resulted in the NAHLN as we know it today."

Jack Gelb, Jr.

Chair, Dept. of Animal and Food Sciences &

Director, Avian Biosciences Center

University of Delaware



 Article submitted by NAHLN Program Office, USDA APHIS VS NVSL


Overview of Concept Paper and Next Steps


The structure of the NAHLN was reviewed by the NAHLN Coordinating Council to ensure the network meets its missions of early detection, rapid response, and appropriate recovery from adverse animal health events.  Since that time, further discussions occurred and  feedback from various stakeholder groups was solicited.  These steps added considerable value and merit to the development of the NAHLN Concept Paper.  A timeline of these efforts and outcomes is outlined below.


Early in 2011, NAHLN structure options were discussed and provided to the United States Animal Health Association/American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (USAHA/AAVLD) Joint NAHLN Committee for input.  A proposed model document was developed that included four structure models based on state, region, function, or geographic area.  In August 2011, the AAVLD Executive Committee solicited input on the proposed model document from stakeholder groups including NAHLN laboratory personnel, industry, State Animal Health Officials, and Veterinary Services personnel. 


In September 2011, the NAHLN Coordinating Council reviewed stakeholder feedback and developed the Concept Paper.  The Concept Paper was provided to stakeholders for comment at the 2011 AAVLD/USAHA annual meetings.  

In May 2012, the NAHLN Coordinating Council continued discussions on the Concept Paper and in October, the NAHLN program office submitted the final Concept Paper to the Veterinary Services' Writing, Editing, and Regulatory Coordination (WERC) staff.  The objectives of the Concept Paper are to:

  1. Define NAHLN laboratory membership structure;
  2. Recognize NAHLN oversight by the United States Department of Agriculture;
  3. Identify the role of the NAHLN Coordinating Council;
  4. Identify the National Veterinary Services Laboratories as the reference laboratories for the NAHLN; and,
  5. Affirm the opportunity for each State to have a NAHLN laboratory as long as State laboratories meet defined minimum criteria.

APHIS anticipates the revised Concept Paper will be published in the Federal Register in 2013 for comment prior to moving forward with rulemaking.  Existing NAHLN program standards for laboratory approval and removal processes, as well as the NAHLN site visit policies and processes, will be revised as needed and additional program standards will be developed with input from stakeholders. 


The NAHLN program office would like to thank stakeholders for their valuable input as we continue to develop and cultivate the NAHLN mission of early detection, rapid response, and appropriate recovery from adverse animal health events.  


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


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In Memory of Dr. Alex Bermudez


Alex Bermudez

Dr. Alex Bermudez

Photo Courtesy of Jim Fosse

Dr. Alex Jose Bermudez passed away suddenly on Monday, October 8, 2012.


Since 2005, Dr. Bermudez had served as Director of the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (VMDL) at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia Missouri and as Associate Professor in veterinary pathobiology.  He was born on February 25, 1957, in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Bates College in Maine, a Master's degree in 1984, and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1986 from the University of Illinois.  Following an avian medicine internship at North Carolina State University, and positions at the University of Connecticut and Ohio State University, he became a faculty member and avian pathologist at the University of Missouri, Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in 1991.  


Dr. Bermudez served on numerous professional committees and boards.  He was a member of the American Association of Avian Pathologists and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians (ACPV) of which he was elected president this past July.  He also represented the ACPV on the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Board of Veterinary Specialties from 2001 to 2007.  He was an associate editor for the journal Poultry Science for 10 years and served on the editorial board of Avian Diseases.  He also served on the editorial board of the Avian Disease Manual published by the American Association of Avian Pathologists (1994 - 2006) and was a contributing author to the text "Diseases of Poultry" (10th, 11th, and 12th Editions).  He faithfully served the University of Missouri and professional groups in many capacities.


Dr. Bermudez was an active member of Evangelical Free Church and later the International Community Church.  He served both churches as elder, teacher, Bible study leader, and most importantly, a tireless helper to those in need.  Whether it was leading an organizational meeting or bringing his pickup truck to help international students move, his gentle spirit and dedication to others had an impact on the lives of his church family, from the youngest children in Sunday school to its oldest members and staff.  From childhood he had an abiding love of nature.  An avid bird-watcher, enthusiastic fisherman, and persistent (if rarely successful) hunter, his great joys were spending time in the countryside and at the beach.  The final week of his life was spent on vacation with his family.


Dr. Bermudez took part in the Quality Management System training hosted by NAHLN in July of this year.  It was wonderful to see him and, as usual, he was all smiles.


"Alex was a great Director and will be missed by so many people.  I will treasure my 20 years of working with him both as an Avian Pathologist, Director and friend."

- Cherie Chapman, VMDL histotechnologist.


We have appreciated Dr. Alex Bermudez' contribution to the NAHLN mission.  He will be greatly missed.


Article submitted by Christina Loiacono, Associate Coordinator, NAHLN Program Office, USDA APHIS VS NVSL, Ames, IA


Obituary information taken from: http://cvm.missouri.edu/news/Bermudez2012B.html


QA Update


NAHLN Quality Management System Online Training Course


At this fall's American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) Annual Meeting, NAHLN announced that the NALHN Quality Management System (QMS) online training course was ready for use by NALHN, AALVD and other laboratory groups in the United States.


This online course is intended to assist laboratories in training their staff on quality system principles without using additional financial resources.  Training for all laboratory staff in the intent and use of quality principles is increasingly important to ensure continuous improvement of laboratory procedures that produce critical test results and diagnoses.  As laboratories in the United States and around the world work to implement and improve their quality programs, expectations for ongoing improvement continuously "raise the bar".  This training will raise laboratory staff awareness of quality issues, and thereby raise the level of quality in their work. 


The course is divided into the following ten topics:  Introduction to QMS; Control of Documents; Clients, Services and Supplies; Records Management; Process Improvement; Personnel; The Lab and Its Equipment; Specimen Management; and Measurement Traceability and Test Method and Reporting.  Each topic may contain more than one sub-topic.  For example, the Clients, Services and Supplies topic contains the following sub-topics:  Client Complaints, Review of Work Requests and Contracts, Subcontracting of Test Services, and Purchasing of Services and Supplies.  Each sub-topic contains a recorded presentation that discusses the basic intent and principles for each quality topic.  At the end of the presentation, there is an opportunity to take a self-guided quiz that will provide the user with feedback on their answers.  In addition, there is a final test for each sub-topic that will provide a completion certificate if the user scores 80% or better.


One sub-topic, Corrective Action and Root Cause Analysis, contains several additional interactive learning exercises that lead the user through a corrective action scenario where they investigate a problem and choose the appropriate corrective action.  This topic presents a virtual laboratory where equipment, documents, and records can be viewed and evaluated, with interviews from animated virtual laboratory staff that help to explain the problem.  In addition, short animated videos contain discussions about what an expert on quality would expect to see in a laboratory's corrective action process.  Documents contain comments and hints regarding what information an auditor may look for in that document and examples of acceptable and unacceptable documents are provided.  Links to the applicable AAVLD Requirements for an Accredited Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory are also provided.


The project is funded through March 2013 and the development team will be working on adding additional exercises and materials to other topics in the course.  The development team is very excited to release this course, and welcome any and all feedback so that we can resolve any problems and make improvements.  The course can be accessed at the following Web site:  online.wsu.edu/courses/qms.  If you have feedback or comments please send those to Patricia Lukens by e-mail at plukens@vetmed.wsu.edu. 


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


Getting to Know Us - Dave Pyburn


Dave Pyburn is a Staff Veterinarian with the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services (VS), Swine Health Programs.  In 1995, he received his DVM from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.  After graduation, he worked for three years as a mixed animal practitioner in two different practices in rural Iowa.  He then joined the National Pork Producers Council as the Director of Veterinary Science, spending three years working on veterinary issues for the pork industry. He has served USDA APHIS VS since 2000 as a Veterinary Medical Officer for Swine Health Programs.   He mainly works on programs for swine influenza virus (SIV) surveillance, classical swine fever (CSF) surveillance, Trichinella, and the Swine Health Protection Act.


Dave Pyburn and family

Dave Pyburn and family

Photo Courtesy of Dave Pyburn

Dave works primarily with the NAHLN on SIV and CSF surveillance and he states that:


"Without the NAHLN system, we were confined to performing foreign animal disease (FAD) surveillance testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories' Ames or Plum Island campuses.  Due to laboratory space and limited personnel, this was the limiting factor for FAD surveillance.  With the advent of the NAHLN system we now have nearly limitless laboratory capabilities at our disposal and we can devise FAD surveillance programs that are better able to detect disease outbreaks quickly in high risk animal populations.  This experience of testing for FADs at the NAHLN laboratories further allows for a cadre of laboratories ready and able to assist in the event of a large scale FAD outbreak.  This is increasingly important as we see more and more consolidation in animal agriculture production systems thus making a large scale outbreak more likely.  Without the NAHLN system our animal agriculture surveillance would be severely lacking and undersized, and we would not be able to respond to an outbreak as quickly.  The NAHLN is a very effective "lighthouse" and "first responder" for animal agriculture."


Dave does not have a lot of free time as his family of three boys keep him very busy when he is not working on swine issues for VS.


The NAHLN program office is thankful for Dave's ongoing efforts toward the NAHLN mission!


Interviewed by Jill Brown, Program Analyst, NAHLN Program Office, USDA APHIS VS NVSL, Ames, IA


NAHLN Portal Update


The NAHLN Portal went live in December 2011, providing users with access to the Laboratory Directory, the Meeting and Conference Center, and the Document Center.  Development on the Portal continues in order to provide additional features to users.  Processes previously achieved using emailed or faxed spreadsheets are being transitioned to the Portal.  Webinars and job aids will be provided to make the transition process a little less painful for laboratory personnel.


What new features can NAHLN labs expect to have available in the next 6 months?

  • Laboratory Directory
    • Area to verify USDA equipment information.
    • Area to update and verify laboratory personnel contact information.
    • Section to enter information and upload all documents and forms associated with annual Request for Lab Approval Checklist submission.
  • Management of Proficiency Tests (PT)
    • Area to view and register laboratory participants for upcoming PTs.  Submit PT test result data and receive PT pass/fail results online.
  • Secure mechanism to electronically access and provide comments on approved standard operating procedures
  • Mechanism to monitor assay performance
    • Downloadable spreadsheets will be available for capturing and reporting real time assay performance data.
  • Mechanism to train others in the assay validation process
    • E-Learning course on assay validation will be available.

For Portal access issues, users should contact the helpdesk at helpdesk@nahln.org or the NAHLN program office at NAHLN@aphis.usda.gov.  For issues experienced while online, a live chat option is available.  Clicking the live chat icon located on the bottom of each section page will provide the user access to a Portal assistance agent.

Article submitted by Cindy Chard-Bergstrom, Microbiologist, NAHLN Program Office, USDA APHIS VS NVSL, Ames, IA



LCEM and Next Steps


Summary:  The Laboratory Capacity Estimation Model (LCEM) was developed in partnership with the Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease (FAZD) Center, and deployed to NAHLN laboratories in June 2012.  The web-based software program provides the ability for laboratories to define resources dedicated to each element of the accessioning and testing process for any diagnostic assay.  This allows for the laboratories to determine diagnostic testing throughput under various scenarios, identify rate limiting processes, calculate supply and equipment usage, personnel requirements, and maximize their efficiency on the local level.  Additionally, LCEM provides the ability for the NAHLN Coordinator to view an individual laboratory's current and maximum throughput for the various assays to support planning and operational decision-making for appropriate direction of samples in an outbreak situation.  The LCEM is also an optional element in Texas A&M University's Information Dashboard Framework - an application that brings together multiple information sources into one customizable, interactive interface.


How LCEM works:  A laboratory can be characterized with four primary concepts within the model:  equipment/space, supplies, personnel information, and finally the processes used in the laboratory.  With this information, the LCEM determines the laboratory's capabilities and capacity.


Individual Laboratory Model Concepts


The laboratories are given some baseline processes for each step for a particular assay, for example, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, for which they define and parameterize each step.  Once the processes are defined, the necessary resources required for each step are identified.  These requirements correspond to the equipment/space, supplies, personnel information, and processing rate of each step.  The compilation of that information is then used to determine the overall throughput of each step.  Two examples are shown below.


The LCEM user can create different processes to model surge versus normal load by changing the hours per shift, number of shifts per day, number of proficiency tested personnel, number of specific equipment used, or any other variables related to a process.  The throughput estimates can be used for a laboratory to obtain a thorough understanding of capability limitations and capacity in any defined testing scenario, all of which will be helpful in planning for an outbreak as well as resource requests and justifications.


Step Execution Examples

All of individual laboratory throughput information can be rolled up into the NAHLN system view.  The NAHLN coordinator can use the information for estimates of network capacity and capability for planning, exercise, and resource requests as well as sample and personnel distribution decisions during an outbreak.


Next Steps:  The LCEM developers are currently working on a number of enhancements to the model for Phase 2 work based on feedback from the NAHLN laboratory users.  Integration of data elements in LCEM and the NAHLN Portal, a secure website within the CoreSHIELD Framework, is currently underway and near completion.  This will eliminate any double entry requirements into the two systems.  Next, the team will work to incorporate limited budget and accounting capabilities and monitoring of consumable laboratory supplies and reagents.  They will continue to provide support for the web-based exercises (described below), system maintenance and support, as well as training for users. In fact, two user group training sessions were conducted at the annual AAVLD-USAHA meeting this past October.


The LCEM is also a key component in the NAHLN's web-based exercise program and has been used in two beta tests of the exercises.   One component of the exercise program are virtual exercises that incorporate existing tools such as the VS Outbreak Surveillance Toolbox, LCEM, and the NAHLN Portal.   The decision-making steps required during the exercise allow NAHLN laboratories to practice the use of and communication with these tools, while implementing policies and preparedness activities in the laboratory.


Article submitted by Sarah M. Tomlinson, Associate NAHLN Coordinator, NAHLN Program Office, USDA APHIS VS NVSL, Fort Collins, CO



NAHLN Surveillance Update


NAHLN has collaborated with other groups within APHIS, 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 are participating in surveillance programs for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), classical swine fever (CSF), scrapieswine influenza virus (SIV), and swine pseudorabies virus (PRV).


NAHLN laboratories play a critical role in 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 Update 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 Volume 3, No. 2 edition titled, "Data dynamics within the SIV Surveillance Program, Why do the reports change?"). 

BSEBovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance

On April 24, 2012, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford released a statement regarding detection of BSE in the United States.  As part of the targeted surveillance system, the USDA APHIS confirmed the nation's fourth case of BSE in a dairy cow from central California.  The animal at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.  For the full release statement and further updates, go to:  http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/bse/index.shtml.


The USDA has conducted surveillance for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) since 1990.  In 2004, following the December 2003 detection of BSE in an imported cow, USDA implemented an enhanced BSE surveillance program to more accurately determine the prevalence of the disease in the U.S. cattle population.


USDA concluded that the prevalence of BSE in the United States is extremely low (less than 1 case per million adult cattle), and in 2006, transitioned to an ongoing BSE surveillance program that tests at a level more commensurate with this extremely low level of risk.  Ongoing BSE surveillance exceeds guidelines set forth by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), providing testing at a level 10 times that which is recommended by OIE.


The NAHLN laboratories have provided BSE surveillance testing since 2004.  Currently, six NAHLN laboratories provide diagnostic testing for the BSE surveillance program.  These laboratories continue to conduct testing to detect BSE at the very low level of less than 1 case per million adult cattle, assess any change in the BSE status of U.S. cattle, and identify any rise in BSE prevalence in this country.  The NVSL Pathobiology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, serves as the national reference laboratory and performs surveillance and confirmatory testing on all samples identified as suspect (potential positive) for BSE by the NAHLN laboratories.


The chart below shows sample testing performed, by Quarter, for BSE by NAHLN laboratories (not including NVSL) in Federal fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012.  The total number of samples tested for BSE by NAHLN laboratories in FY 2011 (October 2010 through September 2011) was 39,598 and 40,612 for FY 2012 (not including NVSL).

BSE Surveillance  

CSFClassical Swine Fever Surveillance 

The 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 (including waste feeding operations)with high risk of CSF exposure in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico
  • Swine highly suspicious for CSF and entered into a Foreign Animal Disease Investigation

NAHLN laboratories conduct CSF surveillance testing and NVSL's Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) is the CSF reference and confirmatory laboratory.  In FY 2012, 19 NAHLN laboratories provided diagnostic testing for the CSF surveillance program. 


The table below shows the number of animals tested for CSF by NAHLN laboratories in three surveillance target populations in FY 2011 and FY 2012.  Feral swine test counts are not included here and waste feeder/high-risk data are not available.


CSF Surveillance  

Information on feral swine serologic CSF testing can be found in the article below titled "Wildlife Services' Surveillance and Emergency Response."    



SCRAPIEScrapie Surveillance

USDA initiated the National Accelerated Scrapie Eradication Program in 2001 with the goal of eradicating scrapie from the U.S. sheep and goat populations.   Since 2003, surveillance for the program has been conducted primarily through the Regulatory Scrapie Slaughter Surveillance (RSSS) program, which targets sheep and goat populations that have been recognized as having higher than average scrapie prevalence.


Other scrapie surveillance also targets scrapie-exposed and potentially exposed sheep and goats found through investigations of infected animals; clinical-suspect animals and other mature sheep and goats submitted to 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, 15 NAHLN laboratories are approved to conduct diagnostic testing for scrapie surveillance.   The NVSL Pathobiology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa serves as the national reference laboratory and performs surveillance and confirmatory testing on all samples identified as suspect (potential positive) by the NAHLN laboratories.


In FY 2011, 37,756, and in FY 2012, 40,429 animals were tested for scrapie by NAHLN laboratories. The charts below show the number of animals submitted, by Quarter, for scrapie testing by NAHLN laboratories in FY 2011 and FY 2012 (not including NVSL).


Scrapie Surveillance

SIVSwine Influenza Virus Surveillance

The goals of the 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 VDLs
  • Swine exhibiting influenza-like illness at first points of concentration or commingling events i.e., markets, fairs
  • Swine populations that are epidemiologically linked to confirmed human cases involving SIV

NAHLN laboratories conduct SIV surveillance for the above-mentioned streams.  The NVSL Diagnostic Virology Laboratory in Ames, Iowa is the SIV confirmatory laboratory.  


SIV testing results reported by NAHLN laboratories

in FY 2011 and FY 2012 

The table below shows the number of herds (accessions) tested, number of influenza-positive herds, and number of herds with virus sub-typing results reported in FY 2011 and FY 2012.

SIV Surveillance table

*Influenza-positive accessions are those with samples with positive matrix assay results


979 accessions had subtyping results reported in FY 2012.  Mixed subtyping results (including multiple subtypes present and dual positives) were reported in 36 accessions.

The chart below provides graphical representation of the frequency of SIV virus subtypes collected as part of SIV surveillance in FY 2012. 


Number of accessions with each SIV virus subtype reported in FY 2012


SIV Surveillance chart      


If an accession had samples with more than one subtype, it is counted in each subtype

group in the pie chart above. 



PRVPseudorabies Virus Surveillance

The pseudorabies virus (PRV) surveillance program was initiated in 2009 as an extension of USDA's successful PRV eradication efforts.   The program gathers surveillance data to support three specific objectives:  (1) rapidly detect PRV entry and infection in U.S. commercial swine, (2) demonstrate freedom from PRV in commercial herds, and (3) monitor domestic sources of PRV.


Targeted Populations (surveillance streams)

  • Investigation and diagnosis of suspicious PRV cases
  • Sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs)
  • Herds participating in routine serology and herd profiling
  • Herds classified as high risk
  • Herds with reported exposure to feral swine
  • Cull sow-boars at slaughter
  • Market swine at slaughter
  • Feral swine

PRV-approved NAHLN laboratories test serologic samples from domestic swine for four targeted PRV surveillance populations:  sick pig submissions, routine serology and herd profiling, high risk swine populations, and swine with known feral swine exposure.   NAHLN laboratories also conduct PRV testing for domestic swine samples that are submitted as part of epidemiologic traceback investigations.  Fourteen NAHLN laboratories conducted PRV surveillance sample testing in domestic swine in FY 2012 and two NAHLN laboratories conducted PRV testing on feral swine samples (see article titled "WS Surveillance and Emergency Response").  The NVSL Diagnostic Virology Laboratory serves as the national reference laboratory and performs confirmatory testing for suspect and positive submissions for PRV.


In FY 2011, 335,290 and in FY 2012, 314,585 swine samples were tested under the PRV surveillance program in the following streams: diagnostic laboratory serologic submissions, sow-boar slaughter, and market slaughter.  NAHLN laboratories tested 27,994 and 23,545 swine for the PRV diagnostic laboratory stream in FY 2011 and FY 2012, respectively.  Information on feral swine serologic submissions tested for PRV by selected NAHLN laboratories can be found in the article below titled "Wildlife Services' Surveillance and Emergency Response."



The surveillance information in this article has been provided by the responsible USDA APHIS offices.
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).
Wildlife Services' Surveillance and Emergency Response


The USDA APHIS WS National Wildlife Disease Program (NWDP) was developed to implement a nationally coordinated surveillance and emergency response system in wildlife.  Its purpose is to safeguard American agriculture, human health and safety, and wildlife populations.  The NWDP is integrated with existing national animal health surveillance infrastructures, such as the NAHLN, to provide an important component in securing animal health, animal-based export trade, and safeguarding public health.   With the assistance of State, tribal, Federal, and private cooperators, the NWDP has conducted surveillance and management of over 100 pathogens, toxins, or disease syndromes at local, regional, national, or international scales.

Photo Courtesy of Justin Stevenson 


The charts below show the number of feral swine samples tested during Federal fiscal year (FY) 2012 and early (FY) 2013 (October 1, 2012 - November 30, 2012) for classical swine fever (CSF), pseudorabies virus (PRV), swine brucellosis (SB), and swine influenza virus (SIV).   Testing for PRV and SIV (nasal swabs) was conducted by NAHLN laboratories, and CSF testing by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, College Station, TX and NVSL's FADDL in Plum Island, NY.  SB testing was conducted by the Veterinary Services Laboratory in Frankfort, KY, the Kansas Brucella Laboratory, Topeka, KS, and at NVSL's Diagnostic Bacteriology Laboratory, Ames, IA.









Article and chart data submitted by Thomas DeLiberto, USDA APHIS WS NWRC, Fort Collins, CO


Wildlife Specimen Workshop Highlights WS and NAHLN Collaboration


A Wildlife Specimen Archiving Workshop was held in Charleston, SC, August 21-22, 2012.  The National Marine Fisheries Service sponsored the workshop to develop a white paper that outlines priorities and strategies to maximize the value of specimens collected for the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank in Charleston, SC.   Twenty-six participants attended, representing various Federal agencies, universities and non-governmental organizations.  The emphasis was on identifying and properly preserving diagnostic tissues that will provide important baseline information on the current health status of marine mammals, which are expected to face increasing threats in the years ahead.


John Baroch with Wildlife Services' National Wildlife Disease Program was invited to give a presentation describing the very successful collaborative relationships that have developed between the NAHLN and Wildlife Services.  The presentation reviewed the design and implementation of the APHIS wild bird and swine health disease surveillance strategy, which began with the highly pathogenic avian influenza wild bird surveillance program in 2006, and continues today with feral swine disease surveillance.  Baroch described procedures that have evolved to efficiently manage the wildlife disease sample life cycle, from collecting selected tissues in the field, to routing through the NAHLN system for diagnostics, data management and reporting, and finally, archiving of samples for future study.



Article submitted by John Baroch, Wildlife Disease Biologist, USDA APHIS NWRC, Fort Collins, CO


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 Update.

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 Volume 4, No. 2 Acronym Key 


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