Hurricanes, Zika, and More: CDC Preparedness and Response Accomplishments in 2017

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November/December 2017

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doctor Stephen C. Redd, MD

Dear Partners,

The past year has been a busy one for CDC—working steadily as the common defense of the country against health threats. The agency activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in response to the devastating hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Our Zika virus response deactivated in September, but the virus still poses a risk and we are continuing our work to protect America’s health at home and abroad. Even while responding to emergencies like these, we work with state, local, and territorial health departments to help them improve public health capacities and prepare for future emergencies. I’d like to share some of our proudest accomplishments of 2017.

Responding to Devastating Hurricanes

CDC is supporting federal partners, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as part of the coordinated national response to the recent hurricanes. Epidemiologists, emergency managers, environmental health specialists, and health communicators are working together in CDC’s EOC to monitor and address public health threats in the aftermath of record-breaking hurricanes. As part of this EOC activation, CDC mobilized its State Coordination Task Force and worked directly with affected jurisdictions to identify and coordinate response needs, hosting more than 50 calls with state, local, and nongovernmental partners.

CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) provides critical support to the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. SNS deployed six Federal Medical Stations (FMS)providing 1,500 beds, critical medicines, and medical supplies to treat and support displaced persons with health-related needs—and coordinated the delivery of more than 340 tons of relief supplies to the island. SNS also provided logistics support from Atlanta, as well as through SNS liaisons in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Finally, SNS is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to rapidly purchase vaccines for preventable diseases including influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, and rabies.

To evaluate and enhance preparedness for mass casualty and other public health emergencies such as the hurricanes this year, SNS staff members conducted planning reviews and tabletop exercises with several jurisdictions. These activities bring together a variety of players and explore the capabilities of both SNS and local jurisdictions. For example, SNS met with Atlanta-area partners including the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the National Guard to discuss strategies for handling an anthrax incident if one occurred in the Atlanta metro area. In 2017, SNS completed eight tabletop exercises in jurisdictions throughout the country.

Scaling Back the Zika Response

Since the 2016 EOC activation for Zika, experts from across the agency worked to protect communities at home and abroad, especially pregnant women, who are at highest risk from this emerging virus and its devastating consequences. Some of CDC’s activities during the response included answering more than 32,500 Zika-related inquiries and more than 8,200 clinical inquiries, distributing a total of 31,468 Zika Prevention Kits, and performing more than 200,000 Zika tests. CDC also established the US Zika Pregnancy Registry, a voluntary collaboration with state, local, tribal and territorial health departments, which collects information about pregnancy and infant outcomes following Zika virus infection.

CDC deactivated its emergency response for Zika on September 29th. Deactivation does not mean that the threat of Zika has lessened in importance or that people are no longer at risk of infection. For example, as of December 20th, there have been 996 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases—many travel-related—reported in U.S. states and territories in 2017. Zika continues to be a risk, and CDC will continue its work to protect the nation from the virus.

Improving Data Collection and Information Sharing

At CDC, we are constantly working to improve the effectiveness of our interactions with state, local, and territorial partners. CDC’s operational readiness review (ORR) process improves state and local operational capabilities to distribute and dispense life-saving medicines and medical supplies during an emergency. This year, CDC refreshed the review process and launched a new online data collection system. In addition, the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP) developed a new electronic information system to improve the efficiency of information sharing and exchange between FSAP and registered facilities. This will also enhance FSAP’s ability to analyze inspection data and identify potential risks.

Public Health Crisis Funding

During the Zika response, CDC processed two rounds of supplemental Zika funding applications by state partners. To improve future support of funding requests, CDC created a new mechanism to rapidly fund awardees to address immediate and time-sensitive needs during a public health emergency. This mechanism, referred to as the Public Health Crisis Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), can be set in motion when supplemental or emergency funds are appropriated for it. Expedited access to funding enables awardees to respond right away; time is of the essence in reducing negative impacts on the health and safety of the American people. Eligible applicants included the 50 states, five U.S. territories, three freely associated Pacific islands, six localities—Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles County, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—and federally recognized tribal governments that meet the NOFO requirements and serve at least 50,000 people.

I am optimistic that we will make even more progress in 2018 and look forward to working with you to make that happen. Thank you for your continued support, and I wish you and your families 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

Upcoming Events

Attend the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) Annual Meeting January 8th-13 in San Diego, California.

Participate in the AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference, entitled “Reconciliation, Regulation, and Regular Order” February 5th-6th in Washington, D.C.

Attend the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Biothreats meeting February 12th-14th in Baltimore, Maryland.

Additional Resources

Take a look at a recent Public Health Matters Blog post entitled “Rural America in Crisis: The Changing Opioid Overdose Epidemic.”

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled “Update: Influenza Activity—United States, October 1-November 25, 2017,” highlights an increase in influenza activity since November.

See the recently released Global Health Security Supplement to the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, an open access journal published monthly by CDC.

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled “Progress Toward Poliomyelitis Eradication—Pakistan, January 2016-September 2017” highlights a decrease of 45% in wild poliovirus type 1 cases in Pakistan.

See the recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Notes from the Field article entitled “Absence of Asymptomatic Mumps Virus Shedding Among Vaccinated College Students During a Mumps Outbreak—Washington, February-June, 2017.“

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled “Fractional-Dose Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine Campaign—Sindh Province, Pakistan, 2016,” highlights successes and challenges of a recent vaccination campaign in Pakistan.

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled “Health and Development at Age 19-24 Months of 19 Children Who Were Born with Microcephaly and Laboratory Evidence of Congenital Zika Virus Infection During the 2015 Zika Virus Outbreak – Brazil, 2017,” highlights the adverse outcomes experienced by children born with microcephaly in Brazil.

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) entitled “Introduction of Inactivated Poliovirus and Impact on Vaccine-Associated Paralytic Poliomyelitis – Beijing, China, 2014-2016,” highlights the benefits of the inactivated polio vaccine and its success in Beijing.

centers for disease control and prevention - office of public health preparedness and response

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