In rural Andrew County, Missouri, citizens could be better prepared for an emergency, whether it be a weather-related event or a public health scare, Andrew County Public Health Administrator Andrew Hoffman told BioPrepWatch.com.
Despite the need for citizens to be better prepared, Hoffman said that the county health department would be in charge of surveillance in situations involving a biological outbreak – including Ebola or an attack of agents such as anthrax. If individuals were to be quarantined for a biological outbreak, the county would have resources available, Hoffman said.
“It’s important to have an emergency kit with enough food and water for several days,” Hoffman said. “If someone is quarantined, there is assistance available. The local food pantries have stepped up and offered assistance.”
Andrew County has an emergency operations policy that the health department would use, Hoffman explained.
“There are indexes for specific incidents, including protocols for Ebola from the CDC and the state,” he said.
Andrew County is home to 17,400 individuals, and its health department is small – with just five staff members, including Hoffman. The county is part of a coalition of health departments that work together to respond to and control incidents.
“Because we’re a small department, if there’s a major event, we can’t do everything ourselves," Hoffman said. "We believe it is important to be part of a coalition of health departments in the state.”
Hoffman’s path to his current position, director of the Andrew County Health Department, was, in his words “an odd path.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in geology, and a master's degree in wildlife and ecology conservation. He spent 18 months working as a geologist before moving into a position in environmental public health. In February 2014, he accepted the administrator position at the Andrew County Health Department.