One of the core functions of the Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) is to prevent the spread of communicable disease and to identify disease outbreaks in Merced County. The MCDPH has been dealing with bioterrorism preparedness and response related activities since shortly after the events of 9/11/2001 in having to respond to a series of possible anthrax-related and unknown / suspicious powder-related incidents that were reported over a several week period.
Since then, preparedness and response activities have continued to expand within the Health Department. The MCDPH has received funding to enhance its ability to respond to a multitude of disasters, including the threat of bioterrorism. The MCDPH’s Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan outlines the activities of the various divisions within the MCDPH in responding to Bioterrorism, naturally occurring disease outbreaks, earthquakes, floods and many other types of man-made or natural disasters.
If the MCDPH ever suspects the possibility of bioterrorist activity, we will immediately communicate with other agencies. Bioterrorism preparedness and response requires cross-departmental collaboration with multiple agencies at the local, regional, statewide, and even national levels.
Planned and ongoing local bioterrorism preparedness activates addresses detection, surveillance, laboratory analysis, emergency response, treatment, and communication with the public. There is no doubt that the critical element in responding to a bioterrorist attack is early detection and recognition. The MCDPH is working with local, state, and federal officials to expand our surveillance systems to detect unusual or suspicious disease occurrences. Additionally, a rapid alert system to receive and pass information among physicians, other health care providers, and health officials is being developed.
Distribution of Information
Additionally, specific information about the unusual diseases that might be the result of a bioterrorist attack have been distributed to all local emergency rooms and to health care providers in Merced County. Hopefully, we will never need to actually implement the BT response activities being developed; however, it is critical that we are well prepared. The MCDPH is dedicated to continuing to fulfill its essential role in emergency preparedness.