LLU to assist state health departments
Loma Linda University will train health department workers across California to competently prepare for a pandemic health crisis—whether this be influenza or another illness. In September, the state of California offered a $182,000, one-year grant to LLU’s Center for Public Health Preparedness to carry out this training.
LLU public health experts will develop two workshops, each to be delivered six times to California health departments. The first will address community containment, and the second will cover preparing and protecting special/vulnerable populations. Both workshops will concentrate on non-medical interventions and strategies.
“Our focus is to help people to be prepared to survive,” says Angela Dyjack, MPH, REHS, project coordinator for LLU Center for Public Health Preparedness.
Non-medical containment of a highly contagious illness will require the participation and preparedness of the general public. For example, during a pandemic illness, people might need to practice social distancing and sheltering in place. To do so, they must have a ready supply of essentials including water, medications, and food that can be prepared without water or cooking. Although the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a two-week supply, the LLU Center for Public Health Preparedness encourages an ideal supply of three months.
Another facet of containment is appropriate etiquette when coughing or sneezing, and proper hand hygiene.
“During any infectious disease outbreak, there should be hand wipes and hand disinfectants in every business, office, classroom, public area, and public bathroom,” says Ms. Dyjack.
Extra precautions will be required to meet the needs of people in special populations during and leading up to a pandemic illness. Health departments must consider approximately 20 categories of special populations, including people with mental and physical disabilities; geographically isolated individuals; children, particularly unattended children such as runaways or latchkey kids; the homeless; the elderly living alone; and pet owners.
Though bird flu is currently one of the most commonly discussed pandemic illnesses, other diseases also have the potential to spread on a pandemic level, including antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. Furthermore, acts of bioterrorism could unleash diseases such as smallpox, anthrax, and ebola on a large scale.
“We will deliver material that will be applicable to any pandemic emergency and not necessarily limit ourselves to pan flu,” says Ms. Dyjack. “However, pan flu is a high-water mark. In other words, if you are prepared for pandemic influenza, you are essentially prepared for any pandemic emergency.”
The LLU Center for Public Health Preparedness partners with health departments, community organizations, and faith-based organizations to ensure preparedness for all public health hazards. The center is CDC-funded and operates under the auspices of Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
By Heather Reifsnyder