J Clin Microbiol. 2018 Jan 24;56(2):e01608-17. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01608-17. Print 2018 Feb.
In late 2014, 56 hospitals in the United States were designated by state and federal public health authorities as specially designed high-level isolation units (HLIUs) equipped with advanced infrastructure, laboratory capabilities, and trained staff to care for patients with highly hazardous communicable diseases (HHCDs), such as Ebola virus disease. This survey describes the clinical laboratory support capabilities of U.S. HLIUs, including the specific test menus that HLIUs have identified to safely manage HHCD patients and the locations where such testing would be performed. In spring 2016, a survey was electronically distributed, as a fillable pdf file, to the 56 U.S. HLIUs. Site representatives completed the surveys, and data were coded and analyzed in an electronic spreadsheet, using descriptive statistics. Thirty-six HLIUs (64%) responded, and 33 completed the laboratory capabilities section. Thirty-one HLIUs (94%) had performed risk analyses for all laboratory procedures and equipment. Twenty-nine (88%) had decontamination procedures specified for all laboratory equipment used for patients with suspected or confirmed HHCDs. On-site laboratories in 27 HLIUs (81%) had the capacity to inventory and to securely store HHCD patient specimens. Ten HLIUs (31%) had at least one test they would conduct within the patient isolation room. The high-risk nature of HHCDs and the occupational exposures that may occur in clinical laboratories demand advanced preparation and risk assessment of work practices, laboratory equipment, and instrumentation by HLIU laboratories. Although risk analyses of clinical laboratory testing and equipment that HLIUs have conducted have likely focused on those for Ebola virus, HLIUs must be prepared to revise their current procedures for other HHCDs.