APHL’s Vaccine Preventable Disease (VPD) Public Health Laboratory Reference Centers, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have provided advanced molecular testing services in response to at least 15 VPD outbreaks since their launch in 2013. In the first two months of 2015, the Reference Centers conducted over 1000 rRT-PCR assays to diagnose measles and approximately 125 genotyping assays used to characterize the likely source of the virus in positive patients.
Located at public health laboratories in California, New York, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the VPD Reference Centers represent the culmination of three years of planning and preparation by APHL and CDC for the reemergence of measles and other VPDs. Their launch could not have been more timely: 2014 proved to be a record-setting year for measles cases with 644 cases reported in 27 states, the most since measles was declared eliminated in the US in 2000. More recently, a measles outbreak associated with a theme park in California has infected 145 people in seven states to date, making headlines and reigniting the vaccine debate. Three smaller outbreaks have infected an additional 31 people. Prior to the 1970s, measles infected 3-4 million people in the US per year.
Poised for the Next VPD Outbreak
Moving forward, the VPD Reference Centers will continue to provide advanced molecular testing, diagnostics evaluation and proficiency testing panels for eight VPDs including measles, mumps, rubella, varicella zoster virus, pertussis,
H. influenzae, and
N. meningitidis. Services are available to other public health laboratories and programs throughout the country. Public health laboratories that have maintained testing capacity for certain VPDs (most often a combination of measles, mumps and pertussis) can turn to the Reference Centers for proficiency testing panels, surge capacity and more advanced testing services such as genotyping or molecular serogrouping. Meanwhile the public can rely on the Centers as a first line of defense against vaccine preventable diseases.