CDC Report Provides Snapshot of Vermont Public Health Preparedness

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2008

Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report "Public Health Preparedness: Mobilizing State by State" published on Feb. 20 provides a snapshot picture of progress and challenges faced by each state, including Vermont. The report examines three key public health preparedness capabilities: disease detection and investigation, public health laboratories, and overall response capabilities.

The Vermont Department of Health was recognized in the report for conducting a full-scale, two-week exercise, Operation Pandemic Flu, in July 2006 and was also noted for its ability to receive and investigate urgent disease reports 24/7 365 days a year, to conduct laboratory testing for an array of chemical and biological agents, and to activate its public health emergency operations center.

The public health laboratory routinely tests "unknown" samples from the CDC to assess and maintain competency to detect biological and cheical terrorism agents. However, the report identified areas for improvement, such as testing the emergency response of the network of laboratories around the state, and drilling with key response partners to test communications when power and land lines are down.

“We are working every day to strengthen our ability to respond quickly and effectively to any public health emergency – whether biological, chemical or radiological – and whether the emergency is a natural event like pandemic influenza or a terrorist event like an intentional release of anthrax," said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. "But we must keep striving to improve and to meet new challenges."

Vermont was rated as among the most prepared states in the nation in the 2007 Trust for America’s Health “Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Disease, Disasters, and Bioterrorism” report. In that report, based on 10 key indicators to assess health emergency preparedness capabilities, Vermont was rated 9 out of 10. Vermont was cited for its readiness to quickly move pharmaceuticals, vaccines, antidotes and medical supplies from national and state stockpiles to clinics and hospitals in the event of an emergency such as pandemic flu, an anthrax attack or toxic chemical spill.

Vermont was one of the few states in the nation in 2007 to acheive a score of 90 or above (out of 100) from the CDC for its Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) emergency preparedness program. SNS is a federal asset that augments local supplies with a large, continuous quantity of medications, vaccines, supplies and equipment delivered to the state within 12 hours of an emergency.

The Burlington Metropolitan Statistical Area (including parts of Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties) has now joined 71 other cities nationwide in CDC's Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI). CRI is a pilot program to help cities strengthen their capacity to quickly deliver medicines and medical supplies during a large-scale public health emergency such as an airborne anthrax attack. States must develop plans that support mass distribution of medication to 100 percent of an identified population within 48 hours of a possible exposure.

Vermont has exercised its ability to dispense medication quickly to a large population during two large-scale exercises, “Operation Pandemic Flu” in 2006, and “Operation Red Clover” in 2004. "Operation Red Clover" was a three-day scenario that involved a simulated intentional release of pneumonic plague and air delivery of SNS supplies by the Vermont National Guard to public clinics. Also in 2004, during the severe influenza vaccine shortage, the Vermont Department of Health organized community mass vaccination clinics for very high risk adults that were held in 17 locations around the state on a single day.

An effective response involves multiple state and local agencies and the entire health care community working within the framework of the State Emergency Operations Plan.

Key planning and response partners include the Office of the Governor, Vermont National Guard, Department of Public Safety (including Vermont Emergency Management, Vermont Homeland Security, Vermont State Police, Vermont Hazmat), Vermont 2-1-1, Agency of Human Services, Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, the Vermont Association of Hospitals & Health Systems Network Service Organization, Fletcher Allen Health Care, hospitals and laboratories around the state, University of Vermont and colleges around the state, Vermont League of Cities & Towns, Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), local government and planning commissions, schools, law enforcement, refugee community organizations, health care providers, community leaders and the Vermont media corps.

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The CDC report is posted at:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/publications/feb08phprep

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