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Nashville laboratory selected by HHS to expand national monkeypox testing capacity

Nashville laboratory selected by HHS to expand national Monkeypox testing capacity
Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 21:27:51-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When Aegis Sciences Corporation in North Nashville began testing for COVID, the team consisted of about five technicians.

"So we went through four different construction phases to expand the laboratory," said Dr. Matthew Hardison, senior vice president of Laboratory Operations. "We went from a capacity of 3,000 samples a day to 15,000, to 30,000, to 60,000, and now our max COVID capacity is around 110,000-130,000 samples a day."

As demand grew, so did the lab.

"We started a collaboration relationship with Walgreens pharmacies. We're now in over 5,200 Walgreens stores nationwide," said Hardison. "We've done over 13.5 million covid tests."

Now Aegis is being called upon to help again.

"It's exciting for our team to be able to say we're one of five labs in the whole country that's doing this and look what we can do and how we can help," said Hardison.

They were selected by the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct testing for monkeypox.

"So we have primers and probes that detect specific sequences and then we compare those to what we know the sequences are in monkeypox," Hardison said.

They'll be using the same infrastructure and instruments used to test for COVID.

"With monkeypox the primary specimen source right now is what's called a dry swab," said Hardison. "So it's a dry lesion kind of rubbing, scrapping."

The tests are PCR tests and the lab will begin accepting tests from doctors and health departments across the country.

MONKEYPOX EXPLAINER

Throughout the summer, monkeypox has become a trending term in health care across the nation.

The virus includes rash and fever and is spread through close contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's from the same family that causes smallpox. It was first detected in 1958 in monkeys and later in humans in 1970. The disease is rarely fatal.

The United States had its first known case back in May.

Tennessee isn't immune, with the state facing 10 cases of the virus as of mid-July. Testing is now available in 48 states, according to White House officials. Vaccines are also on the way.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.

Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
    • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    If you are sick with monkeypox:

    • Isolate at home
    • If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.