State lab to test for H1N1 across the Pacific - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State lab to test for H1N1 across the Pacific

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -- When H1N1 was at its peak the state laboratory processed 200 to 300 specimens a day.

It's slowed down but it's about to get busier.

"We can certainly easily accommodate the additional work volume," said Chris Whelen, administrator for the State Laboratories Division.

He's talking about a new agreement to test for swine flu for island populations outside Hawaii.

"The Federated States of Micronesia, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Yap, Palau, Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands, along with the Marshall Islands and American Samoa," said Michael Epp of the Pacific Island Health Officers Assoc.

The Centers for Disease Control funded the $471,000 partnership. The Hawaii lab will receive specimens from ten laboratories around the Pacific.

It will turn around test results in 48 hours.

"The sooner we can report back to disease investigators, the sooner we can identify trends," Whelen said.

"What this does is consolidate all of the testing into a single process. There's a single point of contact," Epp said..

The contract is for a year.

"The good thing about the contract is it allows me to hire people and that's a good thing in a down economy," Whelen said.

It also enables the state laboratory to buy equipment.

"We see this as a bit of a one- or two-year stop gap until there develops capacity within Guam to do this type of testing locally," Epp said.

The island nations and territories will become Hawaii's partners in a disease surveillance network.

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