On Public Health Security- December 2015-CDC’s Emergency Response Work in 2015

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CDC’s Emergency Response Work in 2015: A Year of Challenges and Great Progress


On Public Health Security
December 2015
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Stephen C. Redd

Dear Partners,

As we quickly approach the end of the year, I would like to recap some of our emergency response work here at CDC over the past year. Our response to emergencies is guided by the Emergency Management Program (EMP). The EMP consists of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the standard processes and staffing structure from the Incident Management System (IMS), and most significantly, the subject matter experts, staff, and partners that respond to emergencies. Within the EMP, we tailor our response to each unique emergency – our work ranges from sending small response teams into the field in support of state and local public health departments, to official IMS activations in the EOC for large-scale events that require staff expertise from across CDC. Since 2003, the EMP completed over 4,000 deployments for public health emergencies in the U.S. and internationally, supported numerous countries in their public health response work, and activated the IMS in the EOC 58 times. This year has been particularly eventful. Below are highlights of the activities we have undertaken to ensure the safety of both domestic and global communities.

Current Public Health Threats Requiring the Activation of the EOC

CDC’s largest response to date remains the Ebola outbreak response, for which we have deployed over 1,400 people to West Africa, working with partners in the countries most affected by the epidemic. In addition, many hundreds of staff at our headquarters in Atlanta supported the response both domestically and internationally by developing clinical guidance; implementing traveler monitoring programs; working with state health departments to establish Ebola treatment centers in the United States; conducting contact tracing; attending to policy-related requests; training clinicians to properly use personal protective equipment; and many other activities. Because of our unified effort with partners, WHO declared Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission on September 3, 2015, and two months later, made the same declaration for Sierra Leone. Guinea is closer to becoming Ebola-free with the last reported case on October 29, 2015. However, we continue to remain vigilant in our efforts to eliminate Ebola in West Africa. At the end of November, there were three new cases identified in Liberia — proving there is more work ahead of us on the road to zero.

Ebola remains a priority, however, we continue to address other significant health threats. CDC’s EOC is currently activated to support our efforts to eradicate polio. Since 2011, over 500 CDC employees have been deployed to dozens of countries to work with the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program. CDC has made significant contributions by working together with partners on country-level plans for expanding technical and management capabilities; responding to outbreaks; conducting surveillance and vaccination campaigns; and managing data. A major milestone includes the polio-free declaration for Nigeria and removing Nigeria from the polio endemic country list. Additionally, Africa has not had a case of polio since August 2014. Unfortunately, with new polio cases in in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2015, we know that our work in this area will continue.

Incident Management Teams – a New Approach

Regardless of their scale, public health responses often involve staff going to the site of the emergency where they can apply their expertise. For public health emergencies that do not require the full activation of IMS and a centralized response in the EOC, we have worked with individual CDC programs so that they can establish Incident Management Teams (IMT). The IMTs use the established structure and processes of the Incident Management System to guide their response. In March, an IMT was formed to support the Indiana State Department of Health response to an HIV outbreak. This team directly supported the state by contributing to community outreach and completing contact tracing. Additionally, the IMT provided public health communications, human resource management, incident updates, and geospatial mapping support for the response. Similarly, in June, an IMT was activated and seven staff deployed to South Korea to offer technical assistance to better characterize and control transmission of MERS-CoV. While part of the IMT was in the field, additional support for the response was happening right here at headquarters, as we worked to bolster domestic preparedness in the event of an imported case from South Korea.

CDC’s Emergency Management Program made significant progress responding to disasters in 2015. However, this progress made could not have occurred without the help of our partners working with us to protect the public’s health. The challenges of this year have been significant, but each response, whether small or large, makes us smarter and better prepared for what is on the horizon. I look forward to another year of continued maturation of this response capability, and thank you for your continued support. I hope you and your families have a safe and joyful holiday season.

Thank you,
Stephen C. Redd, MD
Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Noteworthy Events

The 14th Annual CDC International Symposium on Biosafety is Near!

This annual symposium will be held in Atlanta, GA, January 30-February 3, 2016 focusing on Biosafety Management. Topics this year will include risk governance; risk tolerance; risk communication; risks specific to healthcare workers, field workers, and international visitors; emerging regulatory guidelines; and the future of biosafety workforce, training, and competencies. Registration is still open.

PHEMCE Stakeholders Workshop 2016 Registration is Still Open

A two-day workshop with plenary and breakout sessions will focus on the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise’s (PHEMCE) future direction of our nation’s medical countermeasure readiness. The workshop will have four tracks that range from operational capacity and effective utilization to industry partnerships. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn and collaborate with PHEMCE stakeholders. Registration is open until December 28, 2015 and the workshop is scheduled to take place January 6-7, 2016.

Noteworthy News

Paris, Resiliency, and ASPR

ASPR’s Dr. Nicole Lurie reflects on lessons learned from the Paris attacks and the role resiliency played in the response in a blog post titled What the Paris attacks can teach us about resilience. She also writes about the role of social media and technology during the emergency event in her blog post. Stay up-to-date on by visiting the ASPR Blog.

Remember to get your Flu Vaccine!

PHPR’s Public Health Matters Blog highlights how to fight the flu with the flu vaccine. It is important to get your vaccine and also know the steps you can take to avoid the flu and other illnesses during the winter season.