New County Public Health Laboratory Dedicated

Supervisor Don Knabe and leaders from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health participated in the ribbon-cutting and dedication of a new laboratory this week. The public health lab is the County’s focal point for testing, observation, and rapid response on hundreds of thousands of human specimens and environmental samples.

Through the testing services at this multi-million dollar, technologically advanced lab, we can quickly test water and food for contamination, identify the sources of disease outbreaks and limit their spread, and test and treat sick patients with serious, communicable diseases as quickly as possible, said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. The lab is a key component in our fight against terrorism through testing for chemical and biological agents in environmental samples and human specimens.

The facility, located in the City of Downey, opened its doors in March. The previous laboratory had been housed in downtown Los Angeles. The new, more spacious location allows for the implementation of advanced technology and equipment that increases the lab’s capabilities. The bigger facility gives approximately 165 staffers room to safely and effectively do their jobs in over 34,000 square feet of laboratory space.

The dedication of this facility is about something very critical in the life of this County and the service we provide to our over 10 million residents, said Supervisor Knabe. This laboratory and its dedicated staff are committed to the singular goal of keeping you and your family safe from disease and biological threats. The work that will be completed in this facility will touch the life of every person in this County in a positive way.

Los Angeles County’s public health lab is unique among other local public health laboratories in California due to the volume of testing it performs. The laboratory conducts more than 700,000 tests on 400,000-plus specimens per year. It serves the needs of more than 10 million residents and tens of thousands of visitors in the County.

The work the laboratory does to support the health and well-being of the public includes the following:

– Specialized monitoring and reference testing for the detection of biological and chemical terrorism agents in environmental samples and human specimens.

– Testing drinking water and recreational water for harmful bacteria.

– Supporting the tuberculosis control program through testing patient specimens to detect and identify active TB cases. The lab also tests for TB strains that may be multi-drug or extremely-drug resistant, in order to guide effective patient treatment and to determine if there is an outbreak.

– Testing foods for the possibility of contamination, which means a faster response on recalls of tainted items.

-Testing specimens during disease outbreaks, such as Hepatitis A, E. Coli O157, botulism, and salmonellosis, to prevent further spread and quickly treat those affected.

– Testing for the presence of West Nile Virus and other viruses transmitted by mosquitoes.

– Blood lead testing to detect elevated levels of lead in children.

– Performing rabies testing on potentially infected animals as part of an on-going rabies control program.

– Supporting HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease programs through patient specimen testing, outreach programs, and demonstration projects to enhance disease control and prevention efforts.

– Training, education, and consultation for laboratory personnel within and outside of Los Angeles County.

– Providing reference and specialized testing to help hospital laboratories and doctors in diagnosing unusual and rare diseases.

– Identifying emerging diseases and new strains of germs that cause disease.

This state-of-the-art facility is necessary for the protection and health of those in Los Angeles County. Through testing and monitoring, public health officials are better able to prevent widespread illness in the community.