Using Federal Homeland Security funding, Greenlee County Health Department has created a new division Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response Program. Bio-T works with other public health programs, including Communicable Disease Control and Environmental Health, to develop strategies to better protect the public in the event of a public health threat or emergency. The Bio-Terrorism Preparedness division was created to prepare and respond to public health threats and emergencies from various sources, such as:
The Bio-Terrorism Division is also responsible for the development of emergency response plans including:
The Bio-Terrorism Division also facilitates communications between local health providers, the State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These communications are maintained via a Health Alert Network (HAN or AZHAN in Arizona) which is an infrastructure of secure Internet connections, fax machines and satellite connections. The AZHAN makes rapid dissemination of important public health information and alerts possible.
Public health professionals continually assess the general health of the community through various surveillance methods. By tracking certain diseases and syndromes (groups of symptoms) within the community, local surveillance provides the information needed for public health decision-making and establishing public health priorities. Epidemiological surveillance will also be managed by the Bio-Terrorism Division by creating a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week communications infrastructure utilizing AZHAN to send and receive urgent disease and public threat information.
It is the policy of the Health Department to keep the public informed concerning public health issues. Information is regularly distributed to the media, health professionals, and the public through news releases, public service announcements, email, fax, and newsletters.
The Health Department is also developing a risk communication plan that will keep the public informed during a public health emergency such as a bioterrorism event. The plan includes various ways to provide consistent information to the media and public in order to share valuable information and address concerns.
The Bio-Terrorism Division is continuously updating training resources that can be used to educate Health Department employees, medical professionals and the public. Education programs are also supplied by the State and CDC via webcast and satellite broadcasts. These educational materials play a critical role in preparing for public health emergencies.