By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
CDC is prepared for epidemic
Health advice
Placeholder Image
What would you do if you heard avian flu had mutated and the new disease affecting humans had made its way through North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and was soon expected in Georgia? Do you have a shelter that filters air and is stocked with every provision you would need to keep your family isolated during an avian flu pandemic? Do you have a plan or do you expect "officials" to assume responsibility for you and your family? And if the latter is true, will you follow instructions? Or will you refuse to get help if it means waiting in a lengthy line?
The world we live in is very different from the one in which most of us grew up. While some will remember bomb shelters and nuclear air raid drills school children in the 1950s experienced, most Americans today can't comprehend the effects of a non-natural disaster. Until 9/11, most Americans didn't believe in the existence of people evil enough to plot our demise. Think about the possibility of bioterrorist chemical actions that could spread contagious diseases throughout the United States.
Contagious diseases that pose a health risk to people have always existed, and the modes of infection are numerous. Some germs, such as the ones that cause malaria, are passed to humans by animals. Others, like those that cause botulism, are carried to people by contaminated food or water. Still others, like the ones causing measles, are passed directly from person to person. These diseases are all contagious and some can be manufactured for indiscriminate use by terrorists.
The spread of contagious disease has been controlled through vaccination and other public health efforts, but new concerns have been raised by the possibility of avian influenza mutations and international terrorist acts. It's important for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to study risks and create formulas to protect the public and prevent or minimize the effects of contagious diseases or bioterrorist actions.
With the help of the CDC, state and local health departments have created emergency preparedness and response plans in addition to early detection and rapid diagnosis operations already in place. The CDC is the U.S. government agency responsible for identifying, tracking, and controlling the spread of disease. In addition to identifying and treating disease, these plans use two traditional strategies — quarantine and isolation — to contain the spread of illness by limiting people's exposure to it.
Much work and planning has gone into preparedness activities against natural disasters, man-made disasters and pandemics. Our community has adopted the CDC's master disaster templates and has worked with other community partners to fine tune plans by holding tabletop and walk-through exercises and drills.
CDC's strategic stockpiles contain large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency (terrorist attack, flu outbreak, earthquake) severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. Once federal and local authorities agree that the strategic stockpile is needed, medicines will be delivered to any state in the U.S. within 12 hours. Each state has plans to receive and distribute stockpiled medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible. The key to the effective utilization of the strategic national stockpile lies in the distribution system or points of distribution.
In preparation for an avian flu pandemic, man-made or natural disaster that requires strategic stockpiled medications, your health department already has the equipment and necessary supplies to accept the medications and deliver them promptly to residents using three or four point of distribution sites.
In light of new information on bioterrorism, particularly about Anthrax, we now know communities of all sizes must work toward the goal of providing prophylaxis for the total population in 48 hours.  State and local planners are working to find new ways to increase the number of patients seen in shorter periods of time while adhering to certain standards of medical care. Streamlining point of distribution operations is the key to exceeding predetermined patient per hour goals.
Pharmaceutical supplies may be delivered in walk-through facilities or in drive-through set ups — the latter being less time and labor intensive and the method that would be used in an Avian flu pandemic to minimize exposure to others who might have been exposed to the disease.
In a drive-through point of distribution, residents:
• receive the immunization or medication form.
• are counseled on the medicine, share their pertinent medical history and check for any contraindications that would prevent taking the medicine or vaccine (triage). They also receive handout materials that provide information on the medicine or vaccine used and the current problem requiring this medication/vaccine.
• are given the medication or immunized with a vaccine.
The drive-through is accomplished without anyone leaving their cars. The procedure involves three stops supported by local police, EMS and public health support staff that can be accomplished in minutes.
Health departments and their community partners have point of distribution exercises structured to simulate a pandemic, natural or man-made disaster. Vaccines against influenza, pneumonia and tetanus are given in the same three-stop procedure, but participants stop at a fourth tent to pay for their shots, which wouldn't be the case during an actual emergency. The drive-through is ideal for handicapped residents, the elderly or people in a hurry. Residents who have participated in the exercise in the past say they prefer this method for getting flu or pneumonia shots since it's quick and easy.
In this respect, health departments can practice point of distribution exercises, evaluate the timing for each resident, fine tune the procedure and provide flu and pneumonia shots to residents. If you wish to participate in this year's point of distribution exercise, call 876-2173 for information.
Sign up for our e-newsletters