DISEASES REQUIRING A COMMUNITY RESPONSE
The Georgia Division of Public Health is the lead agency regarding involving disease outbreaks and biological events in cooperation other local and state agencies and with Federal agencies. They are developing Pandemic plans and have established plans for responding to other situations involving disease outbreaks and biological event. Their system for monitoring disease patterns includes routinely tracking emergency room visits, ambulance runs and pharmacy sales to provide an early warning signal of a possible outbreak.
In addition to naturally occurring disease outbreaks, certain biological agents may be used by terrorists to cause illness or death. These agents include microbes, such as bacteria or viruses, or toxins derived from plants or animals.
In the event of a biological or disease outbreak, Public Health may distribute medicine or a vaccine to those who are at risk. This course of action will be decided based on the specific health hazard. To distribute treatment or vaccines, Points of Dispensing (POD's) will be used. If POD's are activated, you may locate the one closest to you by listening to local radio or TV or reading the local newspapers.
POTENTIAL DISEASE OUTBREAKS
Avian Flu — Avian (bird) influenza (flu) is a strain of the flu virus that primarily infects birds. H5N1, the strain of bird flu detected in Asia and Europe, has been transmitted from infected birds to people in Asia. Approximately 120 people have been infected since 2003. Currently, the disease does not readily spread from person to person. However, there is concern that H5N1 may eventually mutate and spread among people. As a result, health and government agencies around the world are carefully monitoring avian flu activity. Public Health is developing plans for the possibility of avian flu outbreaks in the state with state plans, county plans, hospitals, and providing information and education.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) — Caused by a virus, SARS is characterized by high fever, headache, cough, and breathing difficulties, which in some patients can be severe or even fatal. Transmission of the disease occurs when persons come into contact with infected droplets, expelled by coughing, or with contaminated materials and surfaces. Georgia Public Health has been watching for cases since the outbreak began in early 2003. There have been no laboratory positive cases, nor has there been any evidence of spread to health care workers or household members, nor evidence of community spread of SARS. Public Health works closely with hospitals and medical providers to increase their knowledge about SARS and to help them identify any cases.
Swine Flu (Influenza A N1H1) — The virus is an influenza A virus, carrying the designation H1N1, but it contains DNA from avian, swine and human H1N1 viruses. It appears to have evolved the ability to pass easily from one person to another, unlike most swine H1N1 viruses which only very occasionally infect people and usually only infect one person and then stop there. Flu viruses are all passed on by sneezing, coughing or when people pick up the virus on their hands. This one likely originated in pigs, but the Mexican government and the World Health Organization have ruled out any risk of infection from eating pork.
West Nile Virus — A mosquito-borne virus that can cause serious health conditions including encephalitis and meningitis, West Nile is most prevalent during peak mosquito season, June 1-Oct. 31. Public Health closely monitors suspected cases of the disease in humans, and has a vigorous prevention and monitoring program.