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Front Page » December 19, 2002 » Local News » U.S. Communities Face Bioterrorism Concerns
Published 4,673 days ago

U.S. Communities Face Bioterrorism Concerns

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Communities at locations throughout the United States face serious bioterrorism concerns.

"Now more than ever, public health must play a key role in homeland security," indicated Terrie Wright, southeastern Utah's emergency preparedness planner/coordinator. "We need a strong public health system to detect and control outbreaks, whether they result from bioterrorism or occur naturally. This means well-trained people working effectively together."

"We're on the front lines in responding to many public health emergencies. Because we are out in the community on a daily basis, it may be we will receive the first indications of a bioterrorism event. This could be through our epidemiology surveillance system, contact with local physicians or hospital, or by seeing a patient in one of our clinics," said Wright.

The Utah Department of Health has been awarded two grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that provide funds to prevent and respond to acts of bioterrorism in the state.

Southeastern Utah Health District along with 11 other local health departments in the state and the UDOH received $9.97 million to enhance systems and resources.

In addition to CDC funding, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded a grant of approximately $1.1 million to Utah to help hospitals and clinics develop response capacity by increasing education, equipment and supplies.

The $9.97 million grant will provide personnel, training, equipment and other resources to state and local health departments.

The Southeastern Utah Health district's activities for the grants began with the hiring of Wright as the emergency preparedness planner/coordinator.

"In order to accomplish all the activities covered in the grant, we will be working closely with the hospitals, first responders, law enforcement and others to develop well thought-out plans that will help protect the people in our district during an emergency," said Wright.

"The grant monies will enhance our abilities to recognize and respond to natural or unintentionally caused outbreaks of disease like influenza and food poisoning as well as intentional or terrorist acts involving anthrax or other bioterrorism agents," said Wright.

The grant has six focus areas:

•Preparedness planning and readiness assessment.

•Surveillance and epidemiology capacity.

Laboratory capacity involving biological agents.

•Health alert network/communications technology.

•Disseminating risk and health information.

•Education and training.

If a large-scale infectious disease outbreak were to occur within the district, health department officials along with the hospital, emergency medical services and others would activate a set of private, local, state and federal emergency response plans.

"Many of the plans are in the revision process and require further practical testing. In the weeks to come we will be involved with tabletop and practical exercises and drills, both internally and with our community partners," said Wright.

The plans will address the handling of samples, decontamination strategies, distribution of needed medications and medical supplies, isolation and quarantine authority and techniques, request and activation of federal assistance, alternative communication mechanisms, and many other aspects of the health system responses to a major community emergency situation.

The southeastern Utah department encompasses the largest geographic area of any of the 12 local health districts in the state. In order to meet the needs of the four counties within the health district's boundaries, David Black has been hired as an assistant emergency preparedness planner/coordinator.

For additional information, residents may contact Wright at the Price office at (435)637-3671 or in Castle Dale at 435-381-2252. Black may be reached at the Blanding office at 435-678-2723.

Carbon County residents with Internet access may also obtain information by visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website at

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