Federal, state, and local government agencies, such as health departments, operate laboratories or contract with commercial laboratories for testing related to diagnosis, regulatory compliance, investigations, and environmental monitoring. Since the early 1800s, governmental laboratories have performed testing that led to the identification of outbreaks of diphtheria, cholera, smallpox, and typhoid fever. During the 20th century, these laboratories, in conjunction with academic laboratories, helped develop vaccines and contributed to the detection of polio, rubella, measles, and whooping cough. The response to West Nile fever in the United States and the release of viable Bacillus anthracis in 2001 required these laboratories to develop procedures quickly for diagnosis and identification of agents that they had not previously encountered. Governmental laboratories are key to the recognition of new and emerging infectious diseases and are vital to surveillance efforts.
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