Decades after attack, Oregon county values preparedness

More than 30 years after the Rajneeshee bioterrorist attack in Oregon, involving intentional salmonella contamination of salad bars at 10 restaurants in 1984, the Hood River County Health Department continues to take a proactive stance in the field of bio-preparedness to prevent and respond to similar events, whether deliberate or not.

"Our health department is responsible for responding to any incident involving a public health consequence," Ian Stromquist, environmental health response coordinator for the Hood River County Health Department, said in an interview with BioPrepWatch. "This includes any incident negatively affecting the health of a population of people in Hood River County. This may include food and water sanitation, air quality, natural disasters, medical-services access, human disease (including bio-attacks), etc."

As a result of this responsibility, the department takes biological incidents under careful consideration when formulating plans for preparedness and response efforts. "Hood River County Health Department uses an ‘all hazards’ approach to emergency-preparedness planning," Stromquist said. The all-hazards approach enables the department to respond to any form of emergency using the same framework.

In the event of an emergency, the health department would collaborate with other agencies to ensure swift and effective response. "Our health department would respond in partnership with other local agencies and with the Oregon State Health Authority," Stromquist said. The department also accepts pre-registration online for individuals who wish to volunteer for any emergency-response efforts.