The Public Health Laboratory team works to keep SLO County safe and healthy.

Behind the Scenes at the Public Health Lab

Author: Public Health Department
Date: 4/18/2019 11:33 AM

Day-to-day, the County Public Health Laboratory plays a vital role in protecting our community from risks we often don’t see.

The Public Health Laboratory team works behind the scenes to help keep SLO County safe and healthy. Check out a day in the life of the lab:

The Public Health Laboratory is a certified biocontainment laboratory (biosafety level 3) prepared to respond in the case of an outbreak, attack or other emergency. Each day, the team works to protect our community's health by:

  • testing ocean water for bacterial contamination, with results posted within 24 hours
  • performing the most advanced tests for detection of HIV, ruling out false positive rapid tests
  • testing fungal cultures for Valley fever
  • routinely testing for anthrax, plague, tularemia, brucellosis and pox viruses
  • performing DNA sequencing of microbes
  • testing shellfish for local growers to make sure they are safe to eat and sell
  • testing for lead poisoning among toddlers 
  • performing advanced tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and mycoplasma
  • testing food for agents of foodborne illness to identify the source of an outbreak
  • … and much more. 

The laboratory team carries out these microscopic investigations while maintaining a focus on the big-picture goal of protecting the community’s health. In their own words: 

"I've always really liked the hands-on aspect of science. Working in the lab, it's cool to be able to do something for the community … everything that comes in to the lab, it’s helping somebody in our community in some way. This is why I do public health -- to protect the public, to find out what’s going on." ~Frances 

“I was really into detective books when I was in high school. Investigating the source -- that’s public health. In a hospital, the lab works with the doctors to diagnose a patient. Here, we’re working with our health officer. Our main goal is to treat the community, to stop the spread of disease.” ~Katrina

“Public health microbiology allows me to work in a lab, continue to help nurses and doctors while also building a stronger community and a healthier community by diagnosing infectious disease. Public health is about community. It’s about building your community into a healthy environment.” ~Kyllie

“It’s so much fun! And it’s a great career path. Especially if you’re inquisitive, if you like asking why. In this type of job, you’re doing detective work on a microbial level.” ~Monica

Thanks to the Public Health Laboratory team! Learn more or contact the lab at