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Virology and Immunology

The virology and immunology laboratory has several functions. The virus isolation laboratory isolates and identifies pathogens causing viral and chlamydial disease. This laboratory also maintains a variety of cell lines required to grow viruses and chlamydia. The immunology laboratory primarily tests blood for many viral, rickettsial, bacterial, fungal and parasitic diseases of public health importance. These services are provided to assist physicians in the diagnosis of infectious diseases, and to support surveillance and outbreak investigation of infectious diseases.

Rabies Testing

Rabies is a neurologic virus which causes an acute brain infection. It is seldom reversible and usually fatal. Rabies continues to be endemic in wild carnivores in North Dakota.

Skunks are the primary reservoir of rabies in North Dakota and are the most common source of human exposure, followed by cattle, dogs and cats. Human exposure occurs most often when virus-laden saliva is introduced by a bite or scratch. Although rare, transmission also may occur if saliva or infected brain tissue comes in contact with broken skin or mucous membranes. Even more rare is the airborne spread of rabies in bat caves and laboratory settings. Other mammals known to carry rabies include bats, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, and other livestock.

Since rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, rats and mice are rarely found infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans postexposure treatment is almost never necessary. Each case, therefore, should be considered on an individual basis.

Specimens from suspect animals related to human exposures may be submitted for testing to the North Dakota Public Health Laboratory (NDPHL) through a licensed veterinarian or by contacting the laboratory at 2635 East Main Ave, Bismarck, ND 58502 (701.328.6272). Non-human and human exposures may be submitted by contacting the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, North Dakota State University, Van Es Hall, Fargo, ND 58105 (701.231.8307).

Rabies Exposure Assessment algorithm

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