Public health officials outline bioterrorism preparations
DENVER<State and Denver metropolitan-area public health officials launched the Colorado Observance of 2002 National Public Health Week by detailing what has been done and is being done in Colorado to prepare for a bioterrorism threat and how citizens can be helpful in that work.”Public health has been working hard in Colorado since 1999 to prepare for the possibility of a bioterrorism attack,” said Jane Norton, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, speaking at a news conference at the Colorado State Capitol. “We became the first state in the nation to pass a law that established a legal and statutory framework for responding to a bioterrorism attack. We also have greatly enhanced the capability of the state public health laboratory and have conducted training of state and local public health workers. We have done a great deal. But, we still have much to do and are working on that now.”Because of public health’s involvement in preparation for responding to bioterrorism threats, the theme, “Public Health Rain or Shine<Preparation S Protection S Prevention,” was chosen for the 2002 Colorado observance of National Public Health Week. The observance began April 1 and will continue through today.In connection with the observance, Norton said a brochure on “home emergency preparedness in Colorado” has been printed by the Department of Public Health and Environment and is being distributed throughout the state. The brochure is available in English and Spanish.”The brochure was designed to help Coloradans better prepare for an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster, a power failure or a terrorism threat,” Norton said. “It also contains checklists to help families assemble the items that would help them to better survive an emergency. Although much of the information is common sense, the brochure can help anyone be ready for the unexpected.”Also, it is important that citizens of our state realize they have an important role to play in meeting and beating any threat,” she added. “Government can’t do it alone, but working together with the residents of Colorado, we can meet and beat any threatening situation that we face.”Dr. Ned Calonge, acting chief medical officer and state epidemiologist, said the department’s initial work on bioterrorism preparedness began in 1999, when federal bioterrorism funds first were received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Calonge recently was named by Governor Bill Owens as Colorado’s executive director for bioterrorism.Bioterrorism preparations being proposed in the state under the terms of the new grant include:n Offering further training of Colorado’s public health leadership to prepare them better to respond to bioterrorism incidents.n Providing the state’s 15 local health departments with the training and equipment they need to implement their bioterrorism response plans.n Allocating funds for hiring 14 additional epidemiologists to serve the 15 local health departments and the 41 county public health nursing services throughout Colorado and one additional epidemiologist to serve the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.n Creating planning and emergency response positions in local health departments. These individuals would have responsibility for establishing working arrangements with all emergency response organizations in their area of the state.n Increasing computer-based disease surveillance and reporting capabilities within Colorado. This would include the establishment of a system for sharing state-collected disease surveillance information with doctors and hospitals, which report disease information to the system.n Providing further training of public health, emergency medical services, hospital and other medical community personnel in identifying infectious diseases.n Increasing local public health laboratory capacity in Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Grand Junction, Greeley and Pueblo.n Increasing the capabilities for communicating important preventive and treatment information to Coloradans throughout the state in the event of a bioterrorism attack.n Increasing the state’s capacity to track information on workers in the medical, emergency medical services, law enforcement and public health communities who have been trained in various aspects of protecting the citizenry in the event of a bioterrorism attack.n Providing high-speed Internet service to public health agencies in rural parts of Colorado so communication and disease reporting can be immediate.n Hiring a contractor to develop a plan for organizing, distributing and dispensing medications from the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile if they were needed in Colorado. Because the stockpile is maintained in large quantities, which would require one 747 or two 737 jets to transport them to a state, it would be necessary for public health and medical officials in Colorado to break down the large quantities of medications into small, usable quantities. The plan would establish procedures for doing that.
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