Before the development of vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), morbidity and mortality from these diseases were significant in the US. The widespread use of the MMR and DTP vaccines has reduced cases, making these diseases rare.
However, recent measles outbreaks and the resurgence of pertussis across the US have demonstrated that public health laboratories must maintain the capability and capacity to respond effectively to re-emerging vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs).
Public health laboratories help detect and respond to VPD outbreaks through routine surveillance, and diagnostic and confirmatory testing. They use a combination of diagnostic techniques, including culture, serology, antigen detection and PCR, to detect and characterize VPDs.
APHL promotes the role of state and local public health laboratories in the detection and surveillance of VPDs by improving knowledge, providing trainings and ensuring quality information exchange.
Vaccine Preventable Disease Reference Centers
Because VPDs are relatively rare in the US, it is prohibitively expensive for many laboratories to maintain advanced testing capability for a wide range of diseases. In 2013, APHL and CDC selected four public health laboratories (CA, MN, NY and WI) to serve as VPD Reference Centers.
The VPD Reference Centers perform molecular testing for eight VPDs (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella zoster virus, Bordetella pertussis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitides) on behalf of other public health laboratories that have enrolled as submitting sites. The Reference Centers also offer proficiency testing for molecular testing for VPDs to other public health laboratories.
Diagnostic Fact Sheets, FAQs
Testing for VPDs may involve a combination of molecular and serologic assays, making interpretation of the results complex. APHL developed a series of fact sheets and frequently asked questions to aid in deciphering test results.