Emergency preparedness programs are critical.
The North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System Laboratories serve 15 hospitals and affiliated regional physician practices in the New York City metropolitan area, with virus testing performed at a central reference laboratory. The influenza A pandemic (H1N1) 2009 outbreak began in this area on April 24, 2009, and within weeks respiratory virus testing increased 7.5 times. In response, laboratory and client service workforces were increased, physical plant build-out was completed, testing paradigms were converted from routine screening tests and viral culture to a high-capacity molecular assay for respiratory viruses, laboratory information system interfaces were built, and same-day epidemiologic reports were produced. Daily review by leadership of data from emergency rooms, hospital facilities, and the Health System Laboratories enabled real-time management of unfolding events. The ability of System laboratories to rapidly increase to high-volume comprehensive diagnostics, including influenza A subtyping, provided key epidemiologic information for local and state public health departments.