Hudson Regional Health Commission (HRHC)

Bioterrorism Team

 

HRHC has been designated as the Local Information Network Communications System (LINCS) Agency for Hudson County through the Local Core Capacity Infrastructure for Bioterrorism Preparedness grant between the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and HRHC. 

 

As the LINCS Agency for Hudson County, HRHC is charged with:

 

  • Maintaining a framework and mechanism that provides for ongoing strategic leadership, direction, coordination, and assessment of activities to ensure regional and local readiness; interagency collaboration; preparedness for and response to bioterrorism, other outbreaks of infectious disease, and other public health threats and emergencies for the Hudson County area.

 

  • Developing a system that provides for ongoing interaction with and briefing of high-level policy makers and elected officials (county and municipal) for the Hudson County area and that will serve as a mechanism for communicating during times of a public health emergency.

 

  • Maintaining an active Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Advisory Committee for the Hudson County area.

 

  • Developing, enhancing and maintaining 24/7 disease surveillance, detection and epidemiologic investigation response to potential bioterrorism incidents, other infectious disease outbreaks and other public health threats and emergencies (exclusive of chronic diseases).

 

  • Building relationships and communicating with the public health partners in the County and neighboring region, including, but not limited to, the acute-care hospitals and representatives of appropriate local/state/regional/national professional organizations.

 

  • Developing a Hudson County Public Health Emergency Response Plan (PHERP) that will be an annex to the Hudson County Emergency Operations Plan.  The PHERP is to be reviewed by the Hudson County OEM, Board of Chosen Freeholders and the New Jersey State Police.  It is to be rolled out by HRHC bioterrorism team to all associated agencies/players and is to be exercised annually.  It covers: notification protocol, communications, biological hazards, medical surveillance and diagnosis/epidemiological investigation, roles and responsibilities, patient management, mass fatalities, pediatric information, laboratory information, post-impact, isolation/quarantine, Strategic National Stockpile, human resources, and plan maintenance. 

 

  • Developing a written plan for the receipt, staging, storage, and distribution of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention of the federal government in the event of a Hudson County public health emergency.  This plan outlines the process for providing preventative treatment  (either antibiotics or immunizations) to large numbers of people who have been exposed, or have potentially been exposed, to a disease agent.  This is accomplished through the activation of Point of Distribution (POD) sites throughout the county.

 

  • Developing a Hudson County Risk Communication Plan which describes methods of sending/receiving healthcare information with DHSS and other public and private health agencies; redundant modes of communications to key media, local health, hospital and healthcare audiences; methods of disseminating generic health information to local constituents, including public health officials, schools, businesses, senior citizens and other underserved groups and special needs populations; and the development of a communications network with community partners to help disseminate health information related to bioterrorism.

 

  • Overseeing the establishment of a Hudson County Governmental Public Health Partnership and facilitating and coordinating the completion of the Department of Health and Senior Services assessment tools for local and governance public health system preparedness and response capacity and for Public Health Practice Standards of Performance for Local Boards of Health performance measurements.

 

  • Facilitating and ensuring the identification and training of public health, medical and first responder personnel and private professionals to respond to both bioterrorist and naturally occurring events.

 

  • Maintaining a web-enabled directory of critical local public health personnel to allow 24/7 notification/action of the public health emergency response system.

 

  • Managing and operating the Hudson County e-mail/fax based Community Health Alert and Information Network (CHAIN) as part of the NJ-LINCS Health Alert Network on a 24/7 basis, which sends out health alerts to identified Hudson County recipients.  Also, assisting the local health departments, and other public health and community partners with access to and use of the network. 

 

  • Serving as a technical liaison to Hudson County hospitals, local health departments and Hudson County Office of Emergency Management for developing secure data exchange systems and other electronic communications initiatives.

 

 

LINCS Team Members:

 

- Director                           - Health Educator/Risk Communicator           

- Assistant Director            - NJDHSS Public Health Planner

- Epidemiologist                 - Public Health Partnership Coordinator

- LINCS Coordinator                     

                  - IT Specialist                     To be hired: Public Health Nurse

 

HRHC Activities/Accomplishments:

 

  • Actively participates in the Jersey City Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) as a means of addressing countywide public health emergency planning issues. 

 

  • Coordinates with Hudson County OEM on a near daily basis.

 

  • Participates in regional interstate workgroups as well as those of adjoining counties and various statewide committees (Metro BT Surveillance and Epidemiology Workgroup Meeting, MEDPREP, Urban Areas Security Initiative)

 

  • Disease Surveillance Systems (to allow for the early detection of a bioterrorist attack or naturally occurring disease outbreak):

 

Active Surveillance of Hospital Emergency Room Visits:  6 county hospitals report daily emergency department visits to the HRHC epidemiologist who then analyzes the data to detect abnormal trends in emergency department usage to detect potential bioterrorism related illnesses. 

 

Active Influenza-Like Illness Surveillance System: This system is extremely critical to the early warning of a potential bioterrorism event since the majority of bioterrorism related diseases first manifest with flu-like symptoms.  All 8 county hospitals, as well as 6 county nursing homes report weekly influenza-like illness surveillance to the HRHC epidemiologist.  45 schools report absenteeism rates which is used as a proxy measure. 

 

 

  • Participates in the implementation of the statewide-automated New Jersey Communicable Disease Reporting and Surveillance System (CDRSS) by providing training to those in Hudson County who will be using the system (local health departments and hospital Infection Control Practitioners).

 

  • Developed a Hudson County email/fax based Community Health Alert and Information Network (CHAIN) as part of the NJ-LINCS Health Alert Network with approximately 5000 representatives from: local/county/state government, hospitals, healthcare facilities, local/county health agencies, health care providers, law enforcement, businesses, clinical labs, community organizations, daycares, domestic and wild animal professions, educational institutions, pharmaceuticals, utilities, and others and disseminates information on a near daily basis. 

 

  • Developed a draft version of the comprehensive Hudson County Public Health Emergency Response Plan, which is currently out for review by identified stakeholders.  This plan covers: notification protocol, communications, biological hazards, medical surveillance& diagnosis/epidemiological response, roles and responsibilities, patient management, isolation/quarantine, Strategic National Stockpile receipt and distribution (see next bullet), human resources, risk communication and plan maintenance. 

 

  • Developed the Hudson County Strategic National Stockpile: Mass Prophylaxis/ Immunization Plan which was submitted in draft format to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services on March 1, 2004.  This plan outlines how the entire Hudson County population or a portion of the population would distribute preventative treatment to people exposed, or potentially exposed to a bioterrorism disease agent.  35 Point of Distribution sites have been preliminarily identified for the county and 13 have been formally inspected and deemed feasible.  Included in the plan are the procedures surrounding the Strategic National Stockpile including: request/activation, receipt and distribution, transportation, storage, security, inventory management, drug accountability, recovery of pharmaceutical assets/supplies, staffing, special needs populations, risk communication, and training and education. 

 

  • HRHC is a host site for providing education and training for the public health, medical, and first responder communities and other related disciplines through distance learning (satellite and web-based) broadcasts. 

 

  • A “Taking the Terror Out of Bioterrorism” presentation has been conducted at many different locations in the county for the general public, school nurses, and the business community. 

 

  • HRHC has received a grant to establish a Medical Reserve Corp for Hudson County, to recruit and train mass prophylaxis/immunization volunteers in the event of the need to activate Point of Distribution sites to provide preventative treatment to a large population.  Approximately 250 volunteers have been preliminarily identified.