Nebraska's Dakota County Health Department works to strengthen bio-preparedness

Dakota County’s focus when it comes to bio-preparedness in Nebraska is to greatly strengthen existing resources and plans throughout the near future.

While recent Ebola incidents across the country have prompted the county and its health department to make significant strides in this area, more work remains to be done.

“Our plan for the next five years is to beef up our planning and information so our county is better prepared for an event,” Tiffany Paulson, director of the Dakota County Health Department, said.

With a master's degree in public administration and eight years of experience in health care, Paulson finds enjoyment in the first-hand opportunities she has to improve the overall health and preparedness of the community.

“I do not believe (the citizens) are prepared as much as they should be,” she said. “We are doing our best to change this.”

In the meantime, the department does have reliable procedures in place to handle biological emergencies.

Paulson said the initial step is to isolate any patients, as well as determine their level of contact with the public during the exposure period. This allows the county to pinpoint the severity of the situation and designate quarantine protocol appropriately.

From there, emergency management and first responders would take over most of the groundwork, while the health department would offer critical support to prevent further spread of the outbreak.

“We play a role in the surveillance portion and any educational material that needs to get out to the public regarding health and prevention,” Paulson said.