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Bureau of Public Health Laboratory

The Ohio Department of Health Public Health Laboratory (ODHL) provides timely, accurate and quality laboratory data as an early warning signal of health risks, assistance in outbreak investigations and public health emergencies, and identification of disease causes to aid in treatment and prevention.

The ODHL provides testing, consultation, and education to support public health programs throughout the State of Ohio and the nation. Services provided by the ODHL are directed toward specialized assessments of selected environmental risks, screening for diseases to improve birth outcomes, testing for infectious diseases of public health importance, and laboratory support for surveillance and epidemiological investigations. The services of the ODHL are available to the citizens of Ohio and State and Local agencies in support of initiatives designed to protect the health of all Ohioans.

The ODHL serves as a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified public health reference laboratory in support of programs in the Bureau of Infectious Diseases by providing epidemiologic surveillance and diagnostic testing in outbreak investigations. The ODHL also supports local health departments, hospitals and clinics by providing consultation, referral, and diagnostic support.

The Microbiology section of the ODHL acts as the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) laboratory for the State of Ohio.  The LRN is a national network of laboratories facilitated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The laboratory performs rapid tests on potential bioterrorism/biothreat samples (such as a “white powder” incidents) to detect bacteria and biological toxins that have been designated as having the potential to be used as agents of bioterrorism.  The laboratory also performs testing to confirm the identification of these potential bioterrorism/biothreat agents.  The laboratory maintains trained staff with a 24/7 response capability.  

The Ohio Department of Health’s Newborn Screening (NBS) program identifies newborn babies who may be at risk for some rare but serious health conditions. Babies with rare health conditions can appear healthy at birth. If these conditions are found in the newborn period, early treatment may help prevent serious problems with growth and development. In some cases, early detection may prevent death. The overall goal of the NBS program is to improve the quality of life for babies through early diagnosis and treatment. Ohio has been screening babies since 1966 and, initially, screening was done for only one condition, phenylketonuria (PKU). Over the years, additional conditions have been added to the Ohio newborn screening panel and currently Ohio screens for over 35 disorders.

The Alcohol and Drug Testing (ADT) program is responsible for oversight of OVI testing in Ohio.  ORC 4511.19 defines the authority of Director of Health to approve breath test instruments, approve laboratory techniques for blood and urine analysis, train and test breath test operators and approve permits for breath test operators and laboratory analysts. The program is responsible for certifying over 350 breath test instruments each year and for keeping records for the instruments which are networked to the ODH server.  The program is also responsible for training several hundred breath test operators and renewal testing over 6000 operators annually.