What Public Health Laboratories Do
Public health laboratories provide life-critical services in an era when health threats can—and do—appear overnight. When new health risks emerge or well-known problems reoccur, public health laboratories analyze the threats, provide answers to mount effective responses and act with other health authorities, officials and first responders to protect citizens.
Unlike private medical laboratories that perform tests to diagnose problems afflicting individual patients, public health laboratories safeguard entire communities. In one way or another, the work of public health laboratories affects the life of every American. For example, public health laboratories:
- Screen 97percent of the babies born in the US for potentially life-threatening metabolic and genetic disorders.
- Monitor communities for pathogens that spread in food or through contact with people or animals.
- Perform almost all testing to detect and monitor newly emerging infectious diseases like West Nile virus, SARS and Avian Influenza.
- Test drinking and some recreational water for bacteria, parasites, pesticides and other harmful substances.
- Rapidly identify suspect agents, as in 2001 when public health laboratories tested over 1,200 specimens a day during the anthrax attacks, ultimately conducting over one million laboratory analyses.
Read more about public health laboratories: Defending the Public’s Health (pdf)
- By telephone:
- Within Vermont: 800-660-9997
- Visit the lab for information or to pick up water test kits:
- Location: 195 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, VT.