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    Detection of H1N1 "Swine Flu" 10 Year Anniversary

    Photo By Amanda Wagner | NHRC Operational Infectious Diseases, Director, Dr. Chris Myers explains surveillance...... read more read more



    Story by John Marciano 

    Naval Health Research Center

    On a routine day in April 2009, Operational Infectious Diseases (OID) lab personnel at Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) were busy screening specimens delivered to the lab from surveillance sites when one particular influenza sample was revealed to be “untypable.” It was at that moment, everything changed for this small lab.

    OID lab technicians began to retest and run through all protocols to ensure they had, in fact, detected something new, that this anomaly was not a technical malfunction or a human error. Once the lab team was sure that their work was sound, then OID Department Head, Commander Patrick Blair, contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    “Professionals in our field go through their entire careers trying to find a new emerging infectious disease and we found it,” remembers Melinda Balansay-Ames, manager of the OID Laboratory.

    Less than twenty-four hours later, Blair instructed all research assistants in the field to double their sample collection and directed available lab personnel to work a twenty-four/seven work schedule.

    OID Safety and Logistics Supervisor Larivhie Falaminiano says, “At one point, our average number of samples tested per year became what we were challenged to test in a month. Testing so many samples within such a short period of time was very challenging and required a great deal of coordination to ensure that we had all of the resources to maintain our high laboratory standards. It was demanding and we were all very taxed working such long hours.”

    A big part of NHRC’s OID team mission is to protect the health and readiness of U.S. service members against the threat of dangerous pathogens. This is achieved by conducting active surveillance and characterizing identified pathogens. In this particular case in 2009, this novel specimen was collected at a U.S.-Mexico border site in Brawley, California in a study started by Drs, Meg Ryan and Kevin Russell.

    “Because we are performing active surveillance and have advanced characterization expertise here, we were able to give the world a two-week notice that something new had arrived, what the World Health Organization determined to be the first pandemic of the 21st century,” says current NHRC OID Director, Dr. Christopher A. Myers.

    President of The Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation, Dr. Peter L. Salk, remembers the hard work his father, Dr. Jonas Salk, did to discover the first effective flu vaccine. “Influenza is a difficult disease. The virus is constantly changing and you have to keep chasing it and changing the vaccines that you make.”

    “Those were heady days,” now-Captain Blair recalls. “We led the world and embarked on an NIH-funded triple drug clinic trail to combat severe influenza.”

    In October of 2010, NHRC’s OID team received the Excellence in Public Health Response Award from the CDC/Laboratory Response Network for its critical work in detecting the first US infection with the new pH1N1 virus.

    NHRC’s mission is to optimize the operational readiness and health of our armed forces and families by conducting research, development, testing and evaluation informing Department of Defense policy. NHRC supports military mission readiness with research and development that delivers high-value, high-impact solutions to the health and readiness challenges our military population faces on the battlefield, at sea, on foreign shores and at home. NHRC’s team of distinguished scientists and researchers consists of active duty service members, federal civil service employees and contractors, whose expertise includes physiology, microbiology, psychology, epidemiology, and biomedical engineering.



    Date Taken: 12.18.2019
    Date Posted: 12.18.2019 12:37
    Story ID: 356199
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 157
    Downloads: 0