Personal Security VIII – Public Health Emergency Response

November 21, 2001

"Personal Security VIII – Public Health Emergency Response"
Los Angeles: Recently, there have been numerous calls for police service involving substances believed to be anthrax or other chemical or biological agents. It is the goal of the Los Angeles Police Department to engage in actions that will allay fears and concerns of the community members.
The following information is provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Center of Disease Control (CDC) to assist the public in better understanding these diseases and the roles of public health agencies, in responding to other incidents. This is the second in a two-part series on Facts about Anthrax and Smallpox and the public’s Preparedness and Response to such incidents.

Public Health Emergency Response: The Role of the CDC:

Strengthening the nation’s public health system to protect Americans during public health emergencies.
The CDC’s responsibility, on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is to provide national leadership in the public health and medical communities, and engage in a combined effort to detect, diagnose, respond to, and prevent illnesses, including those that could occur as a result of bioterrorism or any other deliberate attempt to harm the health of America human interests.
This task is an integral part of CDC’s overall mission to monitor and protect the health of the U.S. population. A strong and flexible public health infrastructure is the best defense against any disease outbreak, naturally or intentionally caused. The CDC’s on-going initiatives to strengthen disease surveillance and response at the local, state, and federal levels, complement efforts to detect and contain diseases caused by biological agents that might be used as weapons. Unlike an explosion or a tornado, a bio-terrorist attack could be invisible and silent, and thus would be difficult to detect at first. The release of a biological agent or chemical toxin might not have an immediate and visible impact because of the delay between exposure and onset of illness, or incubation period. The initial responders to such a biological attack would include local, county, and city health officers, hospital staff, members of the outpatient medical community and a wide range of response personnel in the public health system.

Early Detection:

The CDC has helped establish sentinel disease detection systems that involve local networks of clinicians and other health care providers. One such network includes emergency departments at hospitals in large U.S. cities. Another includes travel-medicine clinics in the United States, and overseas. A third network includes over 500 infectious disease specialists throughout the country.
The CDC is using these and other provider-based networks to alert and inform the medical community so that health workers can help recognize and assess unusual infectious disease threats.

Rapid Communications and Information Access:

One of the major objectives in the CDC’s emerging infections plan is to improve their ability to communicate with state and local health departments, U.S. quarantine stations, health care professionals, other public health partners, and the public.
In the event of an intentional release of a biological agent, rapid and secure communications will be especially crucial to ensure a prompt and coordinated response. In the case of some infectious diseases, each hour’s delay would increase the probability that another group of people will be exposed, and the outbreak could spread both in number and in geographical range.
To ensure rapid communication and access to critical health information, the CDC is implementing the national Health Alert Network (HAN), in partnership with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and other health organizations.

National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPSP):

The CDC has developed of a stockpile of pharmaceuticals to be able to reach victims of an incident anywhere in the continental U.S. within 12 hours. This system was proven for the first time when tons of medical supplies reached New York City within seven hours of deployment following the attack on the World Trade Center. The CDC is developing an infrastructure for rapid delivery of pharmaceuticals and adequate monitoring and record-keeping systems.
This media advisory was prepared by Lieutenant Horace Frank, Officer-in-Charge, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.