Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

State Veterinary Laboratory Helps Preserve and Protect Animal and Human Health

Utah’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UVDL) is an important warning system, protecting the state’s animal health, food supply, and overall agricultural economic performance.  Each year, laboratory personnel run in excess of 100,000 diagnostic tests to identify animal diseases, including those that can be passed from animals to humans.

“For obvious reasons, we take our job pretty seriously as we help prevent the spread of disease and protect animal and human lives,” said Tom Baldwin, director/pathologist at UVDL. “Our lab runs efficiently, is state-of-the-art, and complies with federal regulations for testing and reporting.”

One recent example is the detection of Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) in chickens in Utah County.  This led to a quarantine and cleanup effort to prevent the disease from spreading.  Should vND spread, it would have a devastating impact on Utah’s poultry industry.

In 2018, the laboratory handled 11,963 total cases (called accessions), which resulted in 109,507 individual tests (called assays).  Most of the cases (78%) were from Utah, while the remainder were from Idaho (7%), Wyoming (4%), Iowa (4%), California (2%) and other states (5%).

“We handle a number of different types of tests, including pathology, bacteriology, molecular diagnostics, serology, and toxicology,” said Baldwin.  “These are to help us determine hundreds of different potential diseases.”

Within Utah, submissions from nine counties (Cache, Utah, Box Elder, Salt Lake, Duchesne, Uintah, Weber, Sanpete and Washington, listed in decreasing order) accounted for 7,419 (79%) of Utah’s cases.

“Once the lab gets a positive result, a number of different things are set in motion depending on the disease and situation,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Barry Pittman. “UVDL is linked up to a network of labs across the country, so in some cases, the issue can be elevated to warn others.”

Pittman also said that sometimes treatment and/or quarantines are an option, and euthanasia followed by necropsy (animal form of an autopsy) occur as needed.

“Preservation and protection of animal and human health are shared interests we have with our livestock owners,” said Pittman.

UVDL operates as a partnership between the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and Utah State University (USU), with the main laboratory in Logan and an additional laboratory in Spanish Fork.

The UVDL laboratories are also part of a national lab network, overseen by United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  APHIS centralizes and reports data gathered from state labs to safeguard the entire nation.

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