Diagnostic Lab

People and Programs Creating Results

November 8, 2012

No Lazy Summer Days for Diagnostic Team

While Coloradans enjoyed their summers, Dr. Barb Powers and her crew at the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory kept Colorado animals – and people – safe.

Protecting animal and human health

Anthrax. Rabies. Plague. Equine Herpes virus. West Nile virus. Avian flu. Cancer.

"We protect animal health, and by protecting animal health, we protect human health since many of these diseases and pathogens can be shared with humans."

Barb Powers, Director
Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

It’s just a sample of the kinds of diseases and pathogens that CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory veterinarians identify and diagnose daily as a service to the state of Colorado, but this summer was a particularly busy one: They saw the first case of anthrax in livestock in Colorado in 31 years, tested hundreds of animals for rabies and saw an uptick in West Nile infection in horses and, most recently, the first case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in yaks.

“We protect animal health, and by protecting animal health, we protect human health since many of these diseases and pathogens can be shared with humans,” said Barb Powers, director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which is within the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It’s part of diagnostic veterinary medicine that we deal with these diseases that can be contagious to humans.”

No one factor contributed to the increase in some diseases this summer, CSU veterinarians said. Some, like the epizootic hemorrhagic disease, are carried by midges; others, like anthrax, appeared after certain weather conditions: a dry summer followed by a period of intense rain and high temperatures.

Changing with the times

Most states have a similar diagnostic laboratory. The CSU facility - one of seven labs in the nation selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease – has come a long way from one veterinarian, one lab technician and one office worker 30 years ago.

Today, a crew of 80 run about 500,000 tests a year (about 400 a day) to help diagnose and monitor sick pets and livestock on behalf of animal owners, as well as for government agencies such as the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Park Service and the Office of the State Veterinarian.

“Colorado State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory provides critical information to state government – and state residents – about the health of important animal populations and any potential impacts on human health,” said Dr. Keith Roehr, state veterinarian in the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Whiles the state veterinarian’s office reports the illnesses that affect livestock and the state Department of Public Health and Environment report diseases that are a potential threat to public health, it is often Powers' crew that makes the diagnoses as a service to the state of Colorado - true to the university’s land-grant mission.

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