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FOR RELEASE: April 5, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

National Medical Laboratory Week is April 15-21

The Public Health Laboratory Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health examined more than 400,000 specimens last year for the detection of syphilis, HIV, hepatitis A, tuberculosis, chlamydia, rabies, metabolic disease disorders, foodborne outbreaks, and other infectious agents.

To call attention to the vital contributions by medical labs to public health, Gov. Frank Keating has proclaimed April 15-21 as Medical Laboratory Week in Oklahoma. Lab personnel like medical technologists, clinical laboratory scientists, technicians and assistants work to protect the health of Oklahomans through disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Public health laboratories have a long history of cutting edge technology development and its application to protecting the public's health. For instance, the newborn screening program screens every newborn in Oklahoma to detect metabolic disease such as PKU, sickle cell disease, hypothyroidism or galactosemia. The screening and testing of newborns for sickle cell anemia can reduce deaths from this disease by up to 84 percent. Screening, rapid diagnosis and treatment help prevent illness, mental retardation, and death in newborns.

Medical laboratory professionals provide services that prevent disease and disability in vulnerable populations such as women and children, develop new methods to combat infectious diseases, and prepare for and respond to emergencies like bioterrorism and natural disasters. Some examples of ongoing surveillance and intervention by public health laboratories nationwide include:

  • Antibiotic resistant organisms – Use testing to detect the emergence of resistant microorganisms so effective therapies can be administered to prevent the spread of infection and save lives.
  • E.coli – Identify outbreaks to prevent and limit severe illness and death caused by these bacteria.
  • Hantavirus – In 1993, federal laboratories discovered this virus as the cause of a deadly new disease, helped develop new testing technology, and implemented guidelines to protect against exposure.
  • Rabies – In one year alone, animal testing by public health laboratories prevent the pain, trauma and expense of rabies shots to more than 71,000 people and save more than $100 million nationally.
  • Chlamydia – Early detection and treatment of chlamydia saves an estimated $100 million to $400 million per year over the costs of treating complications later and can reduce incidence of infertility by as much as 56 percent.
  • Hepatitis B – Each year in the U.S., between 20,000 to 30,000 infants and young children are infected with hepatitis B. Maternal testing combined with vaccination of the infant within 12 hours of birth can prevent infection in up to 95 percent of cases.


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