According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans suffer from food poisoning each year; most of those cases are attributed to familiar pathogens like Salmonella. However, the deadliest U.S. foodborne disease outbreak in nearly a century was caused by a lesser known, but much more fatal bacteria in 2011 - Listeria monocytogenes.
The Annual Meeting of the Association of Public Health Laboratories hosted more than 500 participants who share the common goal of improving public health efforts and laboratory preparedness. Through workshops and online resources, people from multiple disciplines can learn more about the role of public health laboratories in detecting and investigating emerging threats.
Working with several allies throughout the world, U.S. public-health agencies have significantly improved the nation's ability to detect, analyze, and counter a broad spectrum of infectious diseases before they reach the pandemic stage. More effort, though, is still needed in cooperation with the private sector - the biggest and most vulnerable link in the U.S. food supply chain.
Protecting the food supply chain and defending against intentional contamination requires preventive/defensive efforts at all levels of government, particularly within local communities. All stakeholders therefore must be able to identify vulnerabilities, integrate federal requirements, and determine the resources and training needed to effectively protect the nation's food supply.
Multi-use equipment is a valuable tool for emergency response. Sometimes, though, specialized equipment also is needed to manage unique risks within a community. Thorough risk assessments and cost estimates can help determine specific planning and equipment needs.
The relatively new world of social media has the ability to enhance communication efforts for emergency managers, but it also has the potential to harm the reputation of public agencies. To minimize the negative effects, clear guidelines - reinforced with proper training - should be outlined in advance for all members of an agency.
Protecting the safety and well-being of patients, visitors, and staff can be a major challenge for healthcare facilities. Many variables must be considered when assessing security needs and determining the type of enforcement that should be used to resolve violent situations.
The middle of an emergency-response situation is too late to consult plans designed for a specific incident. To ensure that decision makers and first responders are fully prepared to cope with potential disasters, the plans and equipment needed should already be on hand. Providing the availability of an expandable plan, reinforced by and during daily operations, is the best way to help prepare for the next major disaster lurking just over the horizon.
The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits "the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties." However, when a nation refuses to sign the agreement and continues to stockpile chemical warfare agents, it raises worldwide concerns. In the case of Syria, its own citizens have good reason to fear being the target of attack.
Doing more with less is a key component of public health preparedness. The solution is to re-energize and refocus efforts, leverage partnerships, and integrate activities across programs and systems. The 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit offers a national forum to collaborate with members of the public, private, and non-profit sectors, explore various topics, and share best practices and innovative strategies to protect the public.