​Prior to the anthrax attacks of 2001, bioterrorism was a vague concern for Americans. Then came the delivery of the first anthrax-laden letter, and suddenly bioterrorism was a real and present threat.

In the years following 2001, significant federal and state investment in public health preparedness strengthened laboratory capability and capacity to respond to health threats of all types. This investment proved invaluable in responding to natural disasters and outbreaks such as 2009 H1N1 influenza, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola and Zika.

Federal Investment in Lab Preparedness

Public health laboratories -- which detect and characterize chemical, biological, and radiological agents -- rely on CDC for ninety percent of their preparedness funding  (approximately $70 million annually). This funding is delivered through the PHEP Cooperative Agreement.

PHEP funds are divided among the laboratories in all 50 states, Washington, DC, Los Angeles County, New York City and Puerto Rico. Laboratories use the funds to support personnel, equipment, maintenance contracts, training, supplies and other necessities. 

However, in a 2015 APHL survey, 60% of public health laboratories reported federal funding cuts had reduced operating budgets to razor thin margins.

APHL's Role in Lab Response to Health Threats

APHL strengthens communications and collaboration across US laboratory systems and among public health laboratories and diverse private and public sector partners. It develops diagnostic and practice guidelines, trainings and policies concerning public health preparedness issues, and publishes an annual assessment of state public health laboratory all-hazard capability. See the sidebar for annual assessment reports and data summaries.

For more information, contact Tyler Wolford, MS, senior specialist, Laboratory Response Network, 240.485.2775, tyler.wolford@aphl.org