New bioterrorism coordinator review plan to protect county
Bruce Leeming said he is "just trying to get up to speed on everything" since he went to work Dec.
16 at the Mohave County Department of Health and Social Services.
There is much for him to do as the county's new bioterrorism coordinator.
"I've been reviewing the bioterrorism plan with our management team," he said.
"There still is a lot of planning to do as far as smallpox is concerned."
County health department officials have concentrated their energies for the past several months in developing a plan for inoculating all county residents against smallpox, if an order to do so is issued by President George W.
The smallpox plan is what department director Patty Mead called "an annex" to the overall bioterrorism plan.
The smallpox plan must be submitted to the state Department of Health by Feb.
1, while the bioterrorism plan must be ready by Aug.
1, she said.
"Everything imaginable from the Centers for Disease Control and the president will be addressed in the bioterrorism plan," Leeming said.
"Our goal is to have a plan for every biological weapon we know of that could be used against us."
Dealing with an outbreak of anthrax is one part of the overall bioterrorism plan, Mead said.
Leeming is working with bioterrorism coordinators of other counties in Arizona in the development of the Mohave County plan.
Those coordinators meet or have contact through conference phone calls bi-weekly, he said.
A rough draft of the plan is finished, but many details in it must be filled in, Mead said.
Leeming said he has not yet attended any workshops or seminars on smallpox, but expects to soon.
He will be going to Florida and Virginia for such workshops and seminars in the future, Mead said.
In addition, the county health department plans a mock smallpox disaster drill in February on a date to be determined, Leeming said.
Mead was asked how close her department is to being ready for mass smallpox vaccinations of county residents.
"We're getting there," she said.
"We still have some recruiting of volunteers and training of staff to do."
Mead and five health department employees will be among the first Mohave County residents to get smallpox vaccinations.
That will happen sometime after Jan.
24, the date Congress is expected to enact the Patriot Act, which covers liability and workman's compensation issues related to the vaccinations, she said.
Leeming was asked what is the next step for the county health department.
"We'll continue working on the bioterrorism plan and update the emergency operation plan of the health department," Leeming said.
"We must be prepared as needed to respond to anything in the community."