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State Laboratory - 100 years


October 18, 2017

Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391


DPHHS State Laboratory celebrates 100 years serving Montana

Celebration set for October 19, 2017 at 3 p.m.


The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is hosting a 100-year anniversary celebration of the state’s Public Health and Environmental Laboratories Thursday, October 19 beginning at 3 p.m.

The event will take place in the Cogswell Building located at 1401 E. Lockey in the B Wing Foyer in Helena.

The event will include a tour of both laboratories as a way for Montanans to learn the crucial role these facilities have played in protecting public health in Montana since the original inception of the Montana State Hygienic Laboratory in October 1917.

“These laboratories and the staff who work in them are often an invisible but a crucial component in the public health world,” said DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan. “They play a significant role in the health of communities by providing confirmation of disease outbreaks, population data regarding the health and welfare of citizens, as well as detection of potential biological and chemical threats to public health.”

DPHHS laboratory staff perform tests on greater than 35,000 specimens each year. Tests performed include both medical tests in support of disease control programs such as Zika virus, influenza, hantavirus, pertussis, tuberculosis and HIV, and environmental tests in support of clean drinking water. In addition, newborn screening tests for 29 metabolic and genetic diseases are performed on over 12,000 babies each year.

In 2016, clinical testing was conducted in support of 60 disease outbreaks throughout the state.Approximately 17 of these represented multistate outbreaks that also involved Montana citizens. These outbreaks included various types of respiratory, enteric and foodborne related illnesses.

This contrasts to 100 years ago when the Hygienic Laboratory examined or tested about 1300 patient specimens. Many of the specimens examined in 1917 were for diseases that have mostly been eradicated or controlled by effective immunization and other communicable disease control measures such as small pox, typhoid fever, diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, etc.

In 1917 and 1918 there were greater than 15,000 cases of measles in Montana. Due to immunizations – Montana hasn’t had a case of measles since the late 1980’s.

The laboratory staff is comprised of 33 clinical laboratory scientists, analytical chemists and other support personnel.

WHAT: 100 Year Anniversary Celebration, including refreshments and tours of the Public Health and Environmental Laboratories

WHO: DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan to provide remarks

WHERE: 1401 E. Lockey, Helena, B Wing Foyer of the Cogswell Building

WHEN: Thursday, October 19, 2017. 3-5pm