Tag Archives: DHEC Bureau of Laboratories

Welcome to DHEC’s New Chemistry Division Director for the Bureau of Laboratories

DHEC has a new director of the Chemistry Division in our Bureau of Laboratories: Dr. Ona Adair.

In this role, Dr. Adair manages the operations and strategic planning for two public health laboratory programs with the Bureau of Laboratories: Clinical and Newborn Screening and Analytical Chemistry.

Prior to joining DHEC, Dr. Adair held several positions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including analyst in the PA Newborn Screen Quality Assurance Program, supervisor of the chemical terrorism section, and laboratory system quality specialist.

Dr. Adair holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Medicinal Chemistry from Duquesne University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Pennsylvania State University. She is excited to apply her diverse laboratory operations and administration experience to the mission of improving the quality of health for all South Carolinians.  

Welcome, Dr. Adair! 

Detecting Outbreak Causes Faster with New Technology

By Jim Beasley

In a disease outbreak that threatens the public’s health, time is of the essence.

Thanks to the new FilmArray BioFire system acquired recently by DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories, identifying the pathogens that cause these outbreaks has been reduced to approximately 90 minutes. Prior to this important acquisition, identification of the causes of disease could take one-to-three days.

BioFire proved its significance when five people fell ill after swimming in a Lowcountry community pool. Using regular testing procedures, the pool’s water sample provided nothing of major concern to DHEC’s investigators. The tests found only extremely low levels of germs, and it appeared the pool would be allowed to reopen.

However, a different type of sample was sent to DHEC’s lab to undergo further testing using the new BioFire system. BioFire identified the microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium, also known as “Crypto,” which can cause severe diarrheal illness. Because of its outer shell, Crypto is able to survive outside the body for long periods of time — and can even survive disinfection by chlorine used in swimming pools.

“This technology not only allows us to get results faster,” explains Dr. Shahiedy Shahied, bureau chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories, “but it expands the number of pathogens that we can identify. For a gastrointestinal outbreak it allows us to test for an additional seven pathogens, and the respiratory panel allows us to detect seven additional pathogens that we have no other way to detect.”

Dr. Shahied adds that running samples through the BioFire system is more expensive than more commonly used tests but, in this case, it proved its worth. Identification of Crypto enabled health care providers to offer the appropriate treatments for the five swimmers, helping them on their path to recovery more quickly.

Speaking of BioFire, Rachel Radcliffe, director of DHEC’s Surveillance and Outbreak Investigation Section, said, “It is particularly useful when a pathogen is initially unknown during an outbreak investigation because it can provide timely results that allow us to implement appropriate preventive measures and limit disease transmission.”

BioFire enables DHEC’s public health investigators to respond more rapidly to outbreak situations and makes possible a quicker response and containment of the outbreak. As a result, DHEC can identify threats like Crypto more quickly, helping protect you from bugs that can make you sick.

DHEC Celebrates Lab Week

By Jamie Shuster


Medical Laboratory Professionals Week is celebrated the third week of April each year by laboratory professionals around the country.  The primary focus is to bring attention to and highlight the importance of the work being done by laboratorians daily.

This national celebration gives us the opportunity to highlight the successes of DHEC’s Bureau of Laboratories (BOL), which provides diagnostic and reference laboratory services to DHEC clinics, hospitals, universities, and private providers. The BOL consists of two diagnostic divisions: the Chemistry and Microbiology Divisions.

Some of the team’s many recent accomplishments include:

  • A new condition, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), was added to the testing panel of Newborn Screening
  • Our Newborn Screening Laboratories operate six days a week, including Saturdays and holidays
  • Our laboratory is now certified and approved to test for Ebola, Malaria, and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Each year, our lab team performs the following impressive number of tests and screenings, keeping South Carolinians healthy and safe:

  • 100,000 tests in support of maternal and child health programs
  • 150,000 tests for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • 5,000 tests for rabies
  • Testing for more than 90 percent of tuberculosis patients in South Carolina
  • Screenings to test all South Carolina newborns for metabolic disorders

The Bureau of Laboratories recently hosted a cookout and celebration and in honor of the team’s hard work and many accomplishments. Thank you to our entire BOL team for your continued commitment to helping keep South Carolinians healthy and safe.

It’s time to Fight the Bite!

By Jim Beasley
iStock_000004198503Medium (1)

Mosquitoes. They bite. They bother. They can carry diseases.

That’s why DHEC needs you to help stop the potential spread of mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile and chikungunya.

West Nile virus first appeared in South Carolina more than a decade ago. Birds are “reservoirs” for the virus, but it’s pesky mosquitoes that first feed on the blood of those birds, then transmit the virus when biting people.

Do your part

DHEC seeks your help tracking the re-emergence of West Nile in the Palmetto State by collecting certain types of dead birds and delivering them to DHEC offices for lab testing.

Dr. Chris Evans is a Ph.D. entomologist with the DHEC Bureau of Laboratories, who performs lab analysis on blue jays, crows, house sparrows, and house finches.

“By having citizens watch out for these dead birds and submitting them to us, we broaden our ability to identify areas of the state where mosquitoes are spreading illness,” Evans said. “It’s easy to be involved. Just go to www.scdhec.gov/birdtesting and read about the safe and simple way to submit a bird to us for testing.”

Take steps to protect

The best way to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses is to prevent mosquito bites in the first place:

  • Use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.  If you are not able to protect yourself from mosquitoes inside your home or hotel, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
  • Help reduce the number of mosquitoes outside your home or hotel room by emptying standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.
  • When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use insect repellents
    • Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
    • If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under your clothing.
    • Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
    • Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.

For additional information on mosquitoes in South Carolina, click here. Learn more about the diseases mosquitoes can spread on our website.