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Placer County Public Health Laboratory needs public's support

Lincoln News Messenger - 11/6/2017

Placer County residents must be alerted to an imminent threat to their health and safety.

The Placer County Public Health Laboratory, a critical resource that has defended the local community from disease outbreaks and the ongoing threat of bioterrorism, is in danger. Established in 1953, it is now at risk of closure due to budget cuts. If so, local control of public health protection will be severely compromised. No longer would Placer County be able to respond rapidly to emerging infectious diseases or the multitude of existing conditions that threaten the community. These include Zika, rabies, Lyme, West Nile, pertussis, salmonella, e. coli, TB, Pandemic Flu, measles, sexually-transmitted diseases, and food and water contamination. In addition, water and tick testing directly to citizens would be eliminated.

A similar effort to close this laboratory in 1979 was successfully thwarted.

Subsequently, the Placer County Public Health Laboratory has evolved into one of only 15 state-funded local reference laboratories for agents of bioterrorism, operating a state-of-the-art facility utilizing highly-advanced molecular DNA technology.

This nationally-recognized laboratory has the capacity to identify suspected cases of bioterrorism in only hours, a capability essential to rapid FBI response. Noteworthy accomplishments include determining the sources of local food-borne outbreaks, rapidly identifying rabies exposures insuring timely life-saving treatment, research and test development leading to the discovery of Placer County as a Lyme endemic area, analyzing powder-containing letters for anthrax, timely on-going testing during a Lake Tahoe sewage spill, and high-volume testing in support of a Pandemic Flu response. Today, Placer County Public Health Laboratory's expertise is also recognized by Nevada, Yuba, Sutter and Los Angeles counties, which are provided certain fee-based analyses.

Closing Placer County Public Health Laboratory would be a high-risk attempt to save relatively few dollars while wasting decades of investment. That investment has resulted in a highly effective component of local health and safety infrastructure that provides unique technical capacity for the daily protection of Placer County citizens. Experience has shown us that every disease outbreak and bioterrorism event requires a timely and effective local response. If you are concerned about this threat to you and your family, please contact your (supervisor) board member.

Mark J. Miller, from Sacramento, was a Placer County Public Health Laboratory director from 1979 to 2005.


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