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E. Blair Holladay, PhD, MASCP, SCT(ASCP)CM
Chief Executive Officer
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Communities across the United States are experiencing an influx of refugees from Afghanistan. ASCP has developed a list of diseases that clinicians might encounter when seeing refugees from Afghanistan. Most of these diseases are communicable diseases that are not encountered or extremely rare in the United States, while the non-communicable diseases simply have a relatively higher prevalence in Afghanistan and should be in the forefront of a diagnostic team’s thinking.
“ASCP is focused on our patients, wherever they are from,” said ASCP Chief Medical Officer Dan Milner, MD, MSc, MBA, FASCP. “With the refugees and evacuees from Afghanistan, we recognize that our U.S.-based laboratory community may have diagnostic challenges with diseases that are not common in their domestic populations. Providing this list fulfills our mission of supporting our patients for the best care and supporting our laboratory teams with the best information.”
The list is intended to help the diagnostic team recognize various diseases that they may not commonly see in the U.S. Dr. Milner encourages healthcare professionals diagnosing and treating refugees from Afghanistan to keep an open mind when evaluating patients. “This is just a guideline. Don’t assume, for instance, if a patient has a fever it will be a common upper respiratory infection. It could be lot of other illnesses,” he says.
ASCP Pathologist Council member Chris Cogbill, MD, FASCP, led the Society’s effort to create the document, as he was expecting to encounter diagnostic specimens from Afghan refugees associated with his health system in LaCrosse, WI.
“Upon learning my institution [Gundersen Health System] would be caring for and serving Afghani refugees and evacuees, I realized I would be seeking information about entities I hadn't seen since fellowship that might come across my microscope, or pose unique diagnostic challenges in the clinical laboratory,” Dr. Cogbill says.
He suspected other pathologists and laboratory scientists might face a similar influx of cases. So ASCP and the Pathologist Council brainstormed and created a list of potential epidemiological considerations.
“Before long, cases of malaria and thalassemia, and reports of a measles outbreak, have emerged in my care community, things we don't address too frequently,” Dr. Cogbill says. “We hope this quick reference guide gives pathologists and laboratory professionals assistance in helping provide health care of the highest quality to its patients.”