U of MN Vet Diagnostic Lab chosen by CDC as monkeypox testing site

July 31, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (July 31, 2003) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) was chosen as the national testing site to screen for the monkeypox virus in animals. The CDC has been handling the testing since the outbreak in early June. The VDL has the same state-of-the-art molecular technology as the CDC labs, enabling the University lab to accommodate the high volume of testing samples.

The University is the first veterinary diagnostic lab to be selected as a full member of the CDC's Laboratory Response Network (LRN). This inclusion gives the University access to CDC protocols, immediate emerging disease information, and coordinated communications. "Membership in the CDC's LRN provides the University a great opportunity to rapidly diagnose and prevent diseases transmissible from animals to people," said laboratory director Jim Collins, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Another factor contributing to the selection is that the VDL has the appropriate facility classification, Biosafety Level 3. It has the required airflow inside the lab to contain the virus and prevent contamination of other samples or laboratory areas.

The VDL is working in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health in development of the testing program to meet the national demand for animal testing. As part of the current protocol for handling suspect animal specimens, pet owners and veterinarians are instructed to contact their state department of health, which then transports the specimens to the CDC for testing. The state departments of health and veterinary diagnostic laboratories will now send the animal specimens to the University. Instructions for safe transport are found on the CDC web site at www.cdc.gov or the veterinary college's www.cvm.umn.edu.

"Minnesota is in a great position to highlight our veterinary diagnostic capabilities nationally and demonstrate the importance of an effective collaboration between public health and veterinary laboratories," said Norman Crouch, Ph.D., director of the Minnesota Public Health Laboratory.

Although no recent cases of monkeypox in humans have been reported, appropriate testing must be conducted on all of the nearly 800 animals in the April 9 shipment from Africa. The shipment included the infected Gambian rat responsible for the recent outbreak.
The Academic Health Center is home to the University of Minnesota's seven health professional schools and colleges as well as several health-related centers and institutes. Founded in 1851, the University is one of the oldest and largest land grant institutions in the country. The AHC prepares the new health professionals who improve the health of communities, discover and deliver new treatments and cures, and strengthen the health economy.

Contact: Molly Portz, Academic Health Center, 612-625-2640
Ashley Burt, Academic Health Center, 612-624-2449

University of Minnesota

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