The state hygienic lab finished its verification process through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wednesday so the lab can now do its own testing of samples for the H1N1 virus.
Lucy DesJardin, oversees the program and says the C.D.C. provided them with a kit to conduct their own testing and then had to confirm samples tested in Iowa matched the results of testing in Atlanta.
DesJardin says it should save time in getting results on probable cases of the virus. DesJardin says there are rigid testing criteria, and if people meet the criteria, they are tested for ""influenza A." That test tells the lab if the person has the seasonal flu, or the H1N1 variety.
Over 600 specimens for testing have been sent to the lab in Coralville since the outbreak began. DesJardin says they have three people who are trained to do the H1N1 testing, and they are training a fourth. DesJardin says they’ve been working pretty long hours and everyone else in the lab has shifted around to handle the other duties while the flu testing is underway.
While it has been a huge undertaking for the lab — DesJardin has experience in dealing with such outbreaks. She says one month after she started at the lab there was the West Nile Virus outbreak which led to a lot of testing. Then there was a big outbreak of pertussis, and they were testing around 10,000 specimens a year for two years.
DesJardin says there was another big outbreak in 2006 for the mumps. She says they were testing around 500 samples a day during the height of the mumps outbreak. The assistant director of the lab, Bonnie Rubin, says the cost of the testing for the outbreak had been estimated at around $86,000 by last Friday.
She says they are still adding up the projected costs for this outbreak. Rubin says with any outbreak they try to see what federal dollars are available to cover the costs — and at this point it’s too early to tell if and how much federal money might be available.
Find out more about the H1N1 testing here .