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Background: The global focus on COVID-19 provides a spotlight for the critical role of the clinical laboratory scientist in monitoring and managing pandemic disease. Laboratory management and the laboratory team must understand the signs, symptoms and routes of transmission of the pandemic infectious disease, ensure the safety of their employees, and determine the most effective testing methods for implementation in a rapid time frame.
Methods: An examination of the current literature regarding characteristics of airborne viral outbreaks, safety practices, and emergency use testing methods were compiled.
Results: The protection of laboratory employees is mediated by emergency preparedness plans prior to pandemic threats, insurance that personnel are vaccinated when possible and have appropriate PPE available; includes respirators or face masks. The primary method of early detection of novel pandemic viral threats, such as COVID-19, is molecular testing via nucleic acid extraction from patient specimens and rRT-PCR as indicated from the issuance of FDA Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) from February to April of 2020.
Conclusions: Prior pandemics and standard laboratory practice have prepared clinical laboratories for mitigating the spread of disease among employees. NAAT (nucleic acid amplification testing) has emerged as the earliest testing modality for monitoring pandemic viral disease presence and other methods include viral culture, serological assays, and biomarker testing will be used to monitor progression and treatment. The clinical laboratory investigations and response to viral pandemics has the benefit of increasing our technical knowledge in handling future pandemic threats.
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