Florida’s bio-emergency response starts with Department of Health, moves out to communities

When it comes to preventing and responding to emergencies that relate to biological agents, emergency managers in Florida look to the state's Department of Health to head up the efforts.

That's because the state's Strategic National Stockpile Coordinator Georges Merceron says the health department has the resources to dispense antibiotics, vaccines and any other necessary care to both treat outbreaks and prevent them from spreading further.

For example, a typical response to anthrax would involve antibiotics, including ciprofloxacin, doxycycline and amoxicillin.

“Additional medical countermeasures include the anthrax vaccine, which is administered as a series of three shots, and anthrax immunoglobulin, which contains antibodies that are transfused into an individual’s blood,” Merceron said.

In order to effectively dispense these resources throughout local communities, the health department relies on Closed Point of Dispending (POD) programs. Plans are established in advance to ensure that businesses, community organizations and health care providers receive medical countermeasures to distribute to the public.

“Closed PODs allow citizens to receive prophylaxis in a familiar and comfortable setting,” Merceron said. “They also bolster the public health response by helping to rapidly get medications out into the community during a public health emergency.”

Merceron, who has a master's degree in public health and also studied anthropology, said individuals also can get involved in the POD program to assist with emergency response.