August 3, 2006

Local Health Department Begins Pandemic Influenza Preparedness

Missouri State and local public health agencies received $1.89 million from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve the states ability to respond to a pandemic influenza. Pandemic influenza could be the biggest public health challenge of our time, said Margaret Curry, Administrator of Scotland County Health Department Every segment of society will be impacted so planning and response is imperative.

Eighty-three percent of Missouris funding will be directed to the 114 local public health agencies in the state through contracts with the Department of Health and Senior Services that outline the guidelines and action steps. Agencies will be responsible for developing and testing plans for responding to a pandemic event in their communities. The plans will include procedures for disease investigation, prevention of secondary infections, disease containment and distribution of mass prophylaxis. In addition, each agency will conduct local assessment and gap analysis, designate locations where antiviral drugs could be pre-positioned, and establish a local Pandemic Influenza Coordinating Committee.

Missouri has already taken significant steps to prepare for public health emergencies, including improved disease investigation, laboratory testing, and public health and medical response capabilities. Missouris pandemic influenza plan builds on an established system of disease response often used during disease outbreaks, and is only one component of an all hazards emergency response plan designated to guide the response of any emergency.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services conducted an emergency response Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) exercise June 14th in Springfield, the purpose was to demonstrate and improve the ability to save lives after a bioterrorist attack or in the event of a pandemic influenza event. In the event of a bioterrorist attack or a large-scale crisis, state and local public health agencies must be prepared to quickly distribute mass quantities of lifesaving pharmaceutical, antidotes, vaccines, and other medical supplies.

The federal government established the Strategic National Stockpile program to deliver large and continuous quantities of medical items to the site of a national emergency within 12 hours. During an emergency state, local and private stocks of medical materials could be depleted quickly. Therefore, the SNS program stands ready for immediate deployment to any US location in the event of a national emergency. Each 12-hour Push Package contains an assortment of medical products to help in a variety of possible biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism events.

We have been working hard at having a plan in place to ensure that during an emergency we are ready to receive and distribute the Strategic National Stockpile and dispense the medications to residents quickly, said Margaret Curry, Administrator of Scotland County Health Department. Curry and one other staff member attended the exercise in Springfield and served as role players at a dispensing site. This gave us a better understanding on how to prepare and set up a dispensing site.

The health department is looking for volunteers such as nurses, church groups, and civic organizations to be a part of their response team. We will be holding meetings in the near future to form a Pandemic Planning Committee and invite anyone interested in serving on the committee or as a volunteer to attend, said Margaret Curry. Our mission is protecting our citizens during an emergency, and we realize how important working together and building these partnerships are.

For more information call the Scotland County Health Department at 660-465-7275.

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