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January 30. 2014 10:09AM

CDC: NH well prepared to respond to public health emergencies

CONCORD - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says New Hampshire has made significant progress toward building and straightening its public health emergency preparedness and response capabilities, and remains ready to respond to a crisis, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported Thursday.

The CDC report, 2013-2014 National Snapshot of Public Health Preparedness, includes data on laboratory and response activities happening at state and local health departments across the nation. Being prepared to prevent, respond to and recover from all types of public health threats -- such as disease outbreaks, chemical releases, or natural disasters -- requires public health departments improve and maintain their capabilities in surveillance and epidemiology, laboratories and response readiness.

"We are pleased with the results of the report," Dr. José Montero, director of Public Health at DHHS, said in a prepared statement. "Employees at our department and around the state have put in tremendous amounts of work over the last few years to prepare for emergencies as well as some real-life practice that enabled us to improve and learn what works best for the people of New Hampshire."

Accomplishments highlighted in the CDC report include:

The Public Health Laboratories (PHL) passed all four proficiency tests in 2012 evaluating its ability to receive, test and report on suspected biological agents to CDC. The state lab successfully identified a chemical agent during unannounced proficiency testing and scored 100 on its ability to rapidly identify E. coli and Listeria samples and send the results into the PulseNet system within four days.

The DHHS incident management team leads reported for immediate duty in 20 minutes during a 2012 drill when the goal was within 60 minutes.

The state developed a timely, approved incident action plan for a response, and received an overall score of 100 from CDC on the technical assistance review for its plans to receive, stage, distribute and dispense medical assets received from the Strategic National Stockpile or other sources.

For the Manchester/Nashua Metropolitan Statistical Area, the state received a technical assistance review score of 80 out of 100 in 2012. That is part of the Cities Readiness Initiative of the Strategic National Stockpile.

State health officials said since 2009, the state has dealt with the H1N1 influenza pandemic, the Vermont Yankee tritium investigation, "Snowtober," the hepatitis C and A outbreaks and other emergency events, underscoring the importance of the state and communities being prepared for all types of hazards.

According to the report, the state receives $5.39 million from the CDC through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement.

The report and state-specific information on New Hampshire is available on CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/pubs-links/2013/ .

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