Biological Response Section


To develop and implement a jurisdiction-wide program to provide rapid and effective laboratory services in response to bioterrorism (BT), other infectious disease outbreaks, and other public health emergencies.

Functions of the Biological Response Section (BRS):

  • To analyze and detect microbial threat agents on clinical specimens (human and animal), environmental samples (soil, water, “white” powder) and food samples in response to BT and other public health emergencies.
  • To maintain rapid PCR, serological, and conventional diagnostic capabilities to test for biological agents and toxins likely to be used in a BT event on human, clinical, environmental, and food matrices.
  • To provide training for sentinel laboratorians in the presumptive identification of BT agents in clinical specimens. To ensure that sentinel laboratories are prepared to detect and respond to a BT event in an appropriate and integrated manner.
  • To provide training to HAZMAT and Fire responders on “All Hazards” Sampling techniques. To ensure that appropriate samples are obtained and screened before they are transported to the BRL for testing.
  • To ensure secure and timely electronic reporting of laboratory results to the CDC, the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) and other stakeholders.
  • To provide Pulsed-Field-Gel Electrophoresis (bacterial DNA fingerprinting) testing and analysis in support of the Disease Outbreak and Control Division.
  • To provide diagnostic support for the detection of Avian Influenza Virus, West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and Norovirus for Surveillance and outbreak-related emergencies.
  • To provide rapid molecular and serological detection and rule-out testing for small pox and other orthopox viruses.
  • To analyze food samples and detect microbial threat agents that may be used to harm (intentional or natural) our food and food supply.
  • To provide diagnostic testing for Avian Influenza and West Nile Virus Surveillance and Prevention.

Environmental or Surveillance Samples

The Sentinel Laboratory should NOT process environmental samples received from a possible bioterrorism event, especially powders. They should be delivered to the nearest public health laboratory that is processing these types of samples.

  • The risk of accidentally contaminating the laboratory while trying to process powder is too great. These materials should be referred elsewhere.
  • Culturing of surveillance samples collected in your own institution, including requests for culturing nasal swabs, must be done after consultation and in agreement with the hospital infection control team and hospital or laboratory management. Under no circumstances should the results of a nasal swab culture be used for guiding care of a patient.

FERN Standard Operating Procedures

Specimen Requisition Forms