Author(s): Rendin RW, Welch NM, Kaplowitz LG
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Abstract When a local health department in Virginia learned that a deceased hospital-based nurse had worked for several months with undiagnosed and untreated active tuberculosis, it mounted an extraordinary effort to find, screen, test, and potentially treat numerous contacts. In responding to this challenge, it adapted plans, concepts, and equipment that had been recently developed or acquired for responding to acts of bioterrorism. The improved coordination and integration with community partners and participating agencies, fostered through bioterrorism preparedness planning, were keys to success. Using procedures developed and exercised to distribute prophylactic medication in the Strategic National Stockpile, the health department shifted philosophically from a program-specific response to a more integrated approach. Implementation of this mass tuberculosis-screening program was based on the principles of the Incident Command System (ICS). Owing to the efficiency of the operation, more than 2,500 people were quickly screened, and the rate of return for skin test readings was 91.6\%, ranking it extremely high compared to the benchmarks. Overall, 5.9\% of those tested were found to be infected with tuberculosis, and no cases of active tuberculosis were identified. This outcome demonstrated public health's improved ability to react, as a result of bioterrorism preparedness activities, to "traditional" public health mass events and non-bioterrorism emergencies.
This article was published in Biosecur Bioterror
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals