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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

UNC’s Community Preparedness and Disaster Management Program Helps North Carolina Counties Plan for Bioterrorism and Pandemic Threats

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Community Preparedness and Disaster Management (CPDM) graduate certificate program supports local North Carolina health departments to conduct state-required public health exercise events. All health departments in the state must complete a full-scale Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) exercise to receive state funding for their preparedness programs.

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[Photo: Mr. Bill Gentry conducts a preparedness exercise with county officials in North Carolina]

The CPDM program has facilitated table-top exercises and full-scale exercise evaluation during summer 2015. In October, program representatives will be in Durham County (NC) to evaluate an exercise to practice a scenario involving anthrax.

“Supporting our local health departments is a great opportunity for our program and students to be involved with local plans and response actions,” said Mr. Bill Gentry, who directs the CPDM and executive master’s programs in the Gillings School’s department of health policy and management. “The anthrax ‘points of dispensing’ exercises will allow each county to determine how long it would take to provide antibiotic prophylaxis to everyone in their county after a catastrophic terrorist event. The training also is useful for pandemic planning.”

The CPDM program also participates in a “one health” initiative to assist North Carolina state agriculture representatives in educating the public about highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAV). The migratory pattern occurs this fall on the east coast, and avian flu also has been spread into the U.S. during the spring (Midwest) and winter (west coast) migratory patterns. Avian flu had a major impact in spring 2015 in the states of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

CPDM has sponsored state agriculture officials in North Carolina to speak to students on the UNC campus about the ongoing “one health” threat now having an impact upon farmers and states’ agricultural economies (more than 47 million birds lost), and upon consumers, through rising poultry and egg prices related to the loss of poultry houses.

There also is the threat of this Avian H5N2 strain’s “jumping” into the human population, however slim the chance may be.

“One thing is for sure,” Mr. Gentry said.  “This is a true ‘one health’ opportunity for which all farmers, veterinarians and public health officials need to be at the table discussing plans and outcomes. The avian flu threat will be ongoing and  can affect everything from food prices to environmental concerns to vaccine development. State agriculture officials currently are monitoring the fall migratory process and tracking the spread of the disease.”