Health Department to hold bioterrorism response drill across Southern Utah

In this 2015 file photo, a mock disaster tests the knowledge and reflexes of first responders with both the Cedar City Fire Department and Valley View Medical Center, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 22, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Southwest Utah Public Health Department, in partnership with almost 90 agencies, businesses and organizations, is participating in a bioterrorism response drill Thursday to practice distributing medication in case of an attack.

Approximately 408 groups across Southern Utah have an agreement with the Health Department to act as points of distribution, and 90 of these PODs are participating in the drill. In case of a bioterrorist attack, these distribution points would pick up medicine from the Health Department to treat the disease and distribute them to their employees and their families in order to keep their agency or organization functioning during the crisis.

The Health Department’s objectives for the plan is to communicate with their partners, promote wellness by identifying the threat and its prevention and prevent the spread of the disease with medication and other mitigation measures such as hand washing.

Stock photo by dusanpetkovic/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

As part of Thursday drill, PODs will practice receiving a notification of the attack, going to pick up simulation medicine, filling out necessary forms and distributing it to staff and their families. The other parts of the plan have been tested in previous exercises, said Paulette Valentine, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department Emergency Preparedness and Response division.

Clients and patients may also receive the distributed medicine depending on the organization, and other community members would be able to access the same medication through other locations. The medicine is provided by the Federal Strategic National Stockpile, which is funded through federal taxes and stores supplies to be quickly distributed to people for free in times of crisis such as a bioterrorism attack or natural disaster.

The threat of a bioterrorism attack in Southern Utah is relatively low, Valentine said, but the Health Department is required to have a plan in place. They have held drills such as this before, including one in 2014 when the drill scenario was how to respond in case travelers brought a disease to the area after an attack in Las Vegas.

The Public Health Department has a responsibility to prevent disease and respond to a disease threat,” Valentine said.

PODs participating in the drill include fire departments, police departments, EMS, hospitals, Dixie State University, Southern Utah University, Bryce Canyon National Park, long-term care facilities, hospice, Ruby’s Inn, pharmacies and many different health departments and offices.

“We live in a great place where so many people are willing to assist the Public Health Department in their role and what is needed on our end, because we have a limited staff and limited resources available,” Valentine said. “We appreciate everyone’s participation.”

The drill is being held as part of National Preparedness Month, which occurs annually in September. In addition to the bioterrorism drill, the Health Department will be sponsoring an annual “flu shootout” during September and October.

Businesses and organizations interested in also becoming a POD can email Valentine at pvalentine@swuhealth.org for more information or to apply.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Brian September 6, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    That’s good, because the Fed’s and CDC aren’t going to be much help. A plane full of people arrived from the UAE the other day with at least 10 and possibly as many as 100 showing severe flu-like symptoms. The CDC’s action: release anyone not showing symptoms to continue on their way, onto other planes, buses, into other public places, etc.

    If a genetically-modified (AKA “weaponized”) flu vaccine is ever intentionally brought to the US, a plane from the UAE is a very possible means. It’s good to know the CDC has us covered… (that’s sarcasm, for those not attuned to it).

    Local (and frankly, personal) efforts are the only things going to protect us when (not if) the next pandemic strikes. If you’re unable or unwilling to shelter in place for weeks or even months you’ll find out very quickly that the CDC isn’t able to protect you. I’m glad for any local efforts.

  • brishie September 6, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    With the tourists we have here by the bus loads from China, Japan, Asia, Vietnam, and the Korea, and the bird flu running wild, we need these drills more then just once every 3 years. We are only one mutation away from the bird flu going from bird to humans, to humans to humans and there is no cure for it, it’s deadly. I’m curious is we, not just Utah, but the USA, vets our tourists for these diseases. Does our weight station, here in So. Utah, check for anything other then over-weight freight? They check for barnacles on watercraft I know.

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