Anthrax and Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism is the intentional release of biologic agents for the purpose of influencing the conduct of government or intimidating or coercing a civilian population to further political or social objectives(Turncock, 2012). Anthrax is one of the biologic agents used in the bioterrorism due to its ease of dissemination from one person to another, which eventually leads to massive deaths (Turncock, 2012). This paper evaluates the basic functions of the federal, state, and local level public health organizations during this bioterrorism event, the public health resources available to address bioterrorism threat at the federal, state, and local levels, and the role of communication during an emergency response.

Functions of the Federal, State and Local Level Public Health Organizations. There are several federal departments and agencies, which prepare and respond to public health emergencies, such as bioterrorist attacks. Among these are the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that play the most significant roles through other agencies. The DHHS discharges its responsibilities through the CDC, Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA), Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Heath (NIH), and the Office of Pubic Health Emergency Preparedness (OPHEP) (Turncock, 2012).

During bioterrorism, the federal public health organizations respond by investigating the cause of the disease through the departments, such as the CDC. The federals also provide funds and resources to the local and state agencies to help them respond to such situations. Mellehovitch (2004) cites that in the fiscal year 2002, HRSA’s Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program provided approximately $125 million to states and municipalities to enhance their capacities to respond to bioterrorist attacks. Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the DHS is able to respond to and mitigate against disasters, such as terrorism.

The state powers ensure adequate response to the emergency through all the public health systems. The key functions of the state level agencies include offering of the advanced level laboratory capacity services and epidemiologic expertise especially to the local public health officials (Turncock, 2012). Through mutual agreements between states, they are able to license and credential healthcare professionals. Furthermore, the state powers are able to size up incident scenes and make an initial call for resources, which prevents unnecessary deaths, through the Incident Command Systems (ICS) (Turncock, 2012).

The local level health organizations make the first response during the outbreak of the bioterrorism. Their functions include reporting the diagnosis that may be an indication of the infectious or contagious disease. Since they are the first responders, the local level organizations also make the necessary treatments while identifying security issues unique to the emergency. Some LHDs operate laboratory services, though they depend on State public health labs for specialized diagnostic needs (Turncock, 2012).

Available Public Health Resources to address Bioterrorism. There are several resources in the states and local governments. These include the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), and the SNS (Turncock, 2011). Under the NDMS, there are several teams such as Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), Disaster Mortuary Teams (DMORTs), Federal Coordinating Centers, and Management Support Units (Turncock, 2012).

Through such assets, pharmaceutical stockpiles of avail vaccines, prophylactic medicines, antidotes, and medical supplies and equipment are ensured during the outbreak (Turncock, 2012). Furthermore, there are large healthcare systems operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This department also purchases drugs and therapeutics to the SNS (Turncock, 2012).

At the state and local levels, there are laboratories and disease surveillance systems for diagnosis services and threat detections respectively. Moreover, there are communication systems that facilitate communication through the various organizations (Mellehovitch, 2004). At the local levels, there are Medical Reserve Corp teams, which provide medical care and assist in deploying the SNS materials (Turncock, 2012).

Role of Communication during Emergency. During emergencies, there is a need for communication to disseminate information pertaining to the actual situation on the ground.  The prime role of communication is to reach out to the public to keep them up-to-date in order to save their lives, reduce their worries, and anxieties. There is also a need for communication between the physicians and officials in different organizations, especially by the first respondents who make calls for necessary resources. Communication also allows effective management of the emergencies through a clear dissemination of information pertaining to various goals and objectives (Turncock, 2012).

Strategies to Improve Communication. Some of the strategies that can be used to improve communication include the use of Health Alert Networks (HAN). This is an information and communication channel that can be used to improve the collection and dissemination of information related to the emergencies (Mellehovitch, 2004). Besides, there should be replacement and purchase of new communication systems such as phones, fax, and radio. This would lead to the faster transmission of information. Furthermore, there should be provided proper training on communication to all the health workers to allow quick response during emergencies (Turncock, 2012).

Personal Opinion on State Preparedness against Bioterrorism. I feel that the state is prepared to address the bioterrorism attacks. This is due to various measures that have been put in place with the support of the federal government and the mutual agreement with other states in case of emergency. There are resources available to address the emergence of such issues. Furthermore, Turncock (2012) cites that there has been funding to the CDC antiterrorism activities since the outbreak of Anthrax in 2001.

In conclusion, emergency preparedness is paramount in every nation if the high rates of mortality in a result of such events like Anthrax bioterrorism are to be minimized or eliminated. Though there has been adequate preparation, much more should still be done in areas, such as communication and disease surveillance.

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