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Input: Emerging Issues

Emerging Diseases

Infectious diseases are a continuing danger to everyone. Some diseases have been effectively controlled with the help of modern technology. Yet new diseases—such as SARS and West Nile virus—are constantly appearing. Others, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and bacterial pneumonias, are now appearing in forms that are resistant to drug treatments. Pandemic influenza is but one example that illustrates the issues surrounding these emerging diseases.

Pandemic Influenza

Emergency medical services (EMS) organizations will be involved in the transport of acutely ill patients with known or suspected pandemic influenza to emergency departments; some of these patients might require mechanical ventilation for life support or other lifesaving interventions. The response to an influenza pandemic will pose substantial physical, personal, social, and emotional challenges to health care providers, public health officials, and other emergency responders and essential service workers. Experience with disaster relief efforts suggests that enhanced workforce support activities can help responders remain effective during emergencies. Effective planning for pandemic influenza is critical for ensuring a sustainable health care response.

During an influenza pandemic, however, the occupational stresses experienced by health care providers and other responders are likely to differ from those faced by relief workers in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Globally and nationally, a pandemic might last for more than a year, while disease outbreaks in local communities may last 5 to 10 weeks. Medical and public health responders and their families will be at personal risk for as long as the pandemic continues in their community. Special planning is therefore needed to ensure that hospitals, public health agencies, first-responder organizations, and employers of essential service workers are prepared to help employees reduce their risk of becoming ill and maximize personal resilience and professional performance.

Other Emerging Issues

Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures

The United States faces serious public health threats from the deliberate use of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons of mass destruction and from naturally emerging infectious diseases that have the potential to cause illness on a scale that could adversely impact national security. A failure to anticipate these threats or the lack of capacity to effectively prevent them could negatively impact an untold number of Americans. The United States must be able to effectively develop, stockpile, and rapidly deploy medical countermeasures to prevent, mitigate, and treat the adverse health consequences of threats both natural and manmade. The Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise, within the Department of Health and Human Services, is an interagency effort to develop and implement strategies to achieve the goals of preventing and controlling disease, injury, illness, and disability from terrorist threats and naturally occurring diseases capable of negatively impacting Government and social systems.