When there is an outbreak of disease in a community, time is of the essence. Whether the outbreak is caused by a communicable disease that spreads from one person to another, or by impurities in the food or water supply, health officials must act quickly to protect citizens in the community. The Lenawee County Health Department plays a critical role in this process.
“We need to make sure we have our plans in place so we can get medicine out there really quickly,” explains Susie Dice, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at the Lenawee County Health Department. “In some cases, we only have 24 to 48 hours to get medicine out to people in order to prevent them from getting ill.”
The Lenawee County Health Department’s emergency preparedness program focuses on ensuring that the county is prepared to respond to intentional or unintentional public health emergencies. The Health Department develops plans and conducts trainings to help its staff, government officials, local businesses, medical professionals and county residents prepare for bio-terrorism and communicable disease emergencies. In the event of an outbreak or other public health emergency, they are among the first to leap into action.
Emergency Preparedness in Action
Emergency preparedness is more than just planning and conducting disaster drills. In recent years, there have been two outbreaks that required intervention from the Health Department. “In 2009, we had an outbreak of the H1N1 flu and we were able to hire 23 people to help us out on a short-term basis,” explains Dice. “We only have a staff of 35 people, so we were able to almost double our staff in order to provide protective measures to the community.”
Another disease outbreak occurred in 2013 when hundreds of people reported gastrointestinal symptoms after attending a Tough Mudder event. “We were able to respond to a huge norovirus outbreak that sickened over 600 people that we know of,” says Dice. “So it’s really important to have these services available.”
Emergency preparedness services are funded through the state and federal government, but also require matching funds from the county.
Preventing Outbreaks through Inspections and Permits
In addition to responding to public health emergencies, the Health Department takes measures to prevent outbreaks from occurring in the first place. Many things that citizens take for granted, such as clean water and food safety, are under the direct influence of the Health Department. The Health Department protects citizens from foodborne illness through its inspection program. They perform periodic inspections of restaurants, schools, temporary food events, vending machines and mobile food service units to ensure that they are following health standards for food preparation. The Health Department also educates cooks and food handlers by offering certification classes.
The water supply is also monitored by the Health Department. They issue permits for construction of new and replacement wells serving single-family homes, as well as establishments such as schools, offices, restaurants and campgrounds. These permits are required prior to construction. Health Department staff evaluate well drilling sites to ensure that wells are constructed in areas free of known groundwater contamination. They also provide water sample bottles to test water supplies for bacterial or chemical contamination.
There are many other locations that require ongoing inspections to protect public health and safety, including swimming pools, campgrounds, day care facilities, and tattoo parlors. Because of these inspections by the Health Department, citizens can feel safe when they are visiting any of these locations within Lenawee County.
Investing in Health, Investing in You
By investing in services such as emergency preparedness and environmental health, Lenawee County demonstrates its commitment to the health and safety of its citizens.
“I totally believe in what we do at the Health Department. We provide really important services for the people of Lenawee County,” says Dice. “And our staff is great, our nurses are great. Everything they do is for the clients and for the community.”
For more information on how Lenawee County is Investing in Health, visit us online or call 888-448-1387.