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3:17 AM Thu, Oct. 18th

Health department secures bioterrorism grant, hires staff

Mohave County has obtained more than $390,000 in federal funding to respond to the bioterrorism threat in the aftermath of last year's anthrax scare, an official said.

Jennifer McNally, assistant director of the department of health and social services, said she has used the funding to hire a bioterrorism coordinator, who started working Sept.

9, and an epidemiologist, who is scheduled to start Oct.

7.

Both will be paid an annual salary of $40,102 a year.

David Penn, a 31-year Marine veteran hired as the coordinator, will be responsible for developing and writing the emergency response plan for the health department, McNally said.

"An example would be a smallpox outbreak or any biological or communicable disease," she said.

"With his position, we have specific requirements that the state health department wants us to fulfill.

We have to be able to receive the national pharmaceutical stockpile."

McNally said Penn, who retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel and was assigned as defense attaché in the Republic of Georgia in the former Soviet Union, will work later with doctors, hospitals "and other emergency response" entities such as fire departments.

He also will be working with whomever the county hires as emergency management coordinator to replace Jerry Hill, who recently retired from a 32-year career with the county.

Connie Hall is serving as acting coordinator, public works director Dick Skalicky said.

He said emergency management deals more with responding to fires and hazardous waste spills than bioterrorism.

Penn could not be reached for comment Monday.

McNally said her office hired Leslie Joyce of San Diego to serve as an epidemiologist.

Joyce runs a support group and earned a master's degree in epidemiology.

"She is basically our professional expert" who will guide probes of disease outbreaks in the county, McNally said.

Joyce also will be responsible for a database of disease trends.

When no outbreaks occur, Joyce will assist the nursing division with investigating any communicable diseases, McNally said.

She said the grant funds also will pay for buying equipment to respond to any emergencies.

McNally said the health department also has established a toll-free emergency information line, (866) 409-4099.