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2010 Report: Public Health Preparedness

Background

“Preparedness continues to be a core focus for CDC. The best approach to preparedness is the best approach for public health – identify the problems you can do something about, develop and implement programs, rigorously evaluate their effectiveness, and look for ways to improve them."
— Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, CDC Director
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Public health threats are always present. They include natural disasters; biological, chemical, and radiological incidents; and explosions. The impact of these threats can range from local outbreaks to incidents with national or global ramifications. The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic underscored the importance of communities preparing for potential threats to the public’s health. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and rapidly recover from public health threats can protect the health and safety of the public and emergency responders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plays a pivotal role in preparing our nation for all types of public health threats.17

This report was developed as the nation was responding to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Preparedness activities conducted in 2008 and 2009, the primary timeframes reflected in this report, helped strengthen state and CDC capabilities for responding to the outbreak and increased the resiliency of communities across the nation. Text boxes on state and local response to the pandemic appear throughout this report.

Pandemic Planning Helps States Respond Rapidly to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic

H1N1 Icon

In April 2009, CDC and the public health workforce faced the first influenza pandemic in 40 years. As the initial cases of H1N1 influenza began to emerge in the United States, local, state, and federal public health entities quickly took measures to understand the patterns of the illness, slow its spread, and mitigate its effects.

States began to implement their pandemic plans as the number of 2009 H1N1 influenza cases increased throughout the spring in the United States, Mexico, and other countries. At the time, its course was far from certain, with the possibility of multiple waves of outbreaks throughout the fall and winter.

Federal investments in pandemic planning (see page 11) helped states lessen the impact of the pandemic through increased disease monitoring, ongoing communication updates to keep the public informed, more effective use of existing resources, appropriate use of mitigation measures, implementation of H1N1 vaccination campaigns, and coordination of response efforts with new and established partners nationwide and in other countries. Also critically important were the expansion of state laboratory capabilities for detecting and confirming the virus, and, when necessary, activation of processes for states and localities to receive medical supplies such as antiviral drugs and respirators from CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile. Pandemic planning also allowed time for thoughtful deliberation and identification of challenging decision points, all of which supported accelerated decision making during real events.

Many lessons from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic are being identified. An overarching lesson is the need for a sustained commitment to continued planning, training, and exercising to help ensure rapid and effective responses to future challenges that may threaten the public’s health.

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