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Biological and Chemical Preparedness

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The Delaware Public Health Laboratory Biological and Chemical Preparedness section has the following capabilities:

Preparedness Activities

  • The Delaware Public Health Laboratory (DPHL) is a level B reference laboratory as part of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Laboratory Response Network (LRN). This enables DPHL resources to perform laboratory testing on clinical or environmental samples for detection of biothreat agents and emerging infectious diseases. Additionally, DPHL is also a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), which has access to resources and materials for testing food product to identify potential foodborne outbreaks and biothreat agents.
  • DPHL participates in challenge panels and proficiency tests with our federal partners to ensure laboratory quality performance and personal competency.
  • Additionally, the biological preparedness section of DPHL supports training and educating clinical microbiology (sentinel) laboratories throughout the state so they may be prepared to perform specific laboratory tests to rule out biothreat agents and emerging infectious diseases. This training supports preventing spread of highly infectious diseases to themselves, their staff, and the community. Resources for rule out testing are available at LRN Sentinel Level Clinical Laboratory Protocols (
  • DPHL's preparedness testing aligns with Division of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Section operations, along with other partners, in planning and exercising drills related to emergency response for public health events or disasters that may impact Delawareans. DPHL includes testing, training, and exercising of plans with hospital partners and laboratories for emergency preparedness activities as well.
  • DPHL is a level 3 facility for Chemical Preparedness laboratory activities, which includes training and guidance for sentinel laboratories (clinical, agricultural, environmental, academic and industry). These training and guidance include packaging and shipping of clinical samples suspected of being exposed to chemical threat agents. Additionally, the Chemical Preparedness section ships specimens for chemical analysis to partner laboratories within our region for detection of chemical threat agents. The Delaware Public Health Laboratory works with federal, state, and external partners to develop action plans. For example, ICP/MS methods are used to determine levels of lead in the blood, which has assisted with detection in pediatric cases.
  • With support from CDC and DPH, DPHL created a Laboratory Biosafety and Mitigation Officer. This position works closely with all laboratories in the state, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Delaware, to enhance the levels of biosafety and biosecurity preparedness and laboratory practices.

Clinical Laboratory Referral

  • The Delaware Public Health Laboratory serves as the state reference laboratory by supporting clinical microbiology laboratories throughout the state to maintain proficiency in testing, specifically to rule out bacterial agents. Courses are provided to clinical microbiology laboratory staff on these procedures.
  • Suspected pathogens that cannot be ruled out must be sent to DPHL immediately for confirmatory testing. Molecular and cultural methods are performed to confirm biological agents at DPHL. Clinical laboratories and hospitals are encouraged to communicate with DPH laboratory and epidemiology programs regarding any unusual isolates or infections that they may encounter.

Environmental and Food Testing

  • The Delaware Public Health Laboratory has the capacity to test for biological threat agents that may be found in environmental sources, including food products. As a reference laboratory for federal partners, DPHL works with regional and state partners to test potentially contaminated foods for specific foodborne pathogens, or pathogens that may have been adulterated. This testing can contribute to identification of foodborne related outbreaks.
  • DPH staff participate in bimonthly conference calls and quarterly proficiency tests to ensure competency with testing, awareness of partner capabilities, and current circulating outbreaks. Requests for testing are encouraged to be submitted through Division of Public Health Office of Infectious Disease, Epidemiology, Health Systems Protection Office of Food Protection, and/or Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control emergency response team. Responding to Environmental Emergencies - DNREC (
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This page was last updated 3/24

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