Emergency Preparedness for Newborn Screening Programs

According to CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics,1 nearly four million babies are born each year in the U.S. Every day babies are screened for 33 or more treatable disorders2 and each year nearly 13,000 babies receive a diagnosis. Even when unexpected public health threats emerge, it’s important for newborns to be screened within 24-48 hours of birth to allow for early treatment and management for affected newborns. State and local health departments must stand ready to handle different types of emergencies that threaten the health and resilience of families, communities, and the nation.

There are various emergencies that might disrupt normal operations of newborn screening program laboratories. At times, they are natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes. However, emergencies such as a power outage or cyberterrorism can occur within a workplace, that may require a unique plan to quickly identify and mitigate the effects of the disaster.

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Why should newborn screening programs prioritize emergency preparedness?

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Louisiana’s state public health laboratory and eliminated the state’s ability to perform newborn blood spot screening, which caused a major disruption in screening, diagnosis, and follow-up for several weeks.3 One of the lessons learned from that experience is that a back-up system or contingency plan is essential to keep this critical service functioning in the event of a public health emergency.

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1[NCHS] National Center for Health Statistics. [Accessed on: 2020 August 4]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm

2Advisable Committees on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (ACHDNC) Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP)

3[NCBDDD] National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. [Accessed on: 2020 August 4]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/documents/Screening-Contingency-Plan-Version-II.pdf#page=7pdf icon

Page last reviewed: September 29, 2020