Gila County constantly strives to improve biological preparedness

Gila County Division of Health and Emergency Services in Arizona places a strong emphasis on staying equipped for biological threats, and using education and training to continuously enhance efforts.

"Our primary countermeasure to any biological threat is always appropriate information sharing, and a reserve supply of personal protective equipment for our staff and to supplement first responders if needed," Joshua Beck, manager of the Offices of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Communicable Disease and Emergency Services, recently told BioPrepWatch.

As a result, the department has numerous response strategies in place, including plans for isolation and quarantine, outbreak response, HAZMAT and pandemic response. 

"We have protocols in place for disease outbreaks of unknown etiology and our county has specific personnel available 24/7 to handle calls from our partners in the medical community who take initial calls and determine what kind of response is needed," Beck said.

When new challenges or bio-threats arise, the department takes the initiative to receive specialized training to remain prepared.

"Our preparedness and communicable disease staff have attended numerous Ebola trainings, exercises and conferences in order to gain education while at the same time preparing ourselves to educate the public as questions arise," Beck said. "In light of the events that happened in Dallas, Gila County has been putting an increased effort into improving our existing relationships and building new relationships with our frontline medical providers so they know there is someone that is available to answer their concerns."

In January, the county's communicable disease investigator and selected staff from Emergency Management and Emergency Preparedness plan to attend a Level A packing and shipping course that will provide training on how to send biological specimens to the state laboratory for testing.

"It is Gila County’s belief that preparedness is essential to the continued ability to function in times of an incident, event or disaster," Beck said.