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DHS news release


Sept. 2, 2005


Media contact: Christie Holmgren (503) 731-4000 x: 882

Technical contact: Dr. Susan Allan (503) 731-4000


Oregon's public health system coordinates statewide health and medical response to Hurricane Katrina



The Oregon Department of Human Services, with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and other partners, is coordinating the potential deployment of volunteers to help with Hurricane Katrina.


Dr. Susan Allan, the state's public health officer, said public health response teams would focus on health protection and disease prevention activities, such as safety of the drinking water and food supplies, communicable disease control, injury prevention, control of disease vectors -- mosquitoes, rodents -- and other community-based health protection activities. 


Although Oregon has not deployed any public health personnel, all states have been asked to work through the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) so that the response is efficient and effective.


"We are asking that individuals, who wish to help with this effort, align themselves with a designated emergency response agency such as the American Red Cross or Northwest Medical Teams," said Allan. "We are encouraging people to not self-deploy but work through the appropriate system."


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the state and territorial public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia. ASTHO is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide each state with a template to assist with identifying types of volunteers who might be needed, including their professional skills, language skills, and availability.


In order to coordinate the collection of public health resources, DHS public health has activated its Agency Operations Center, which will be staffed during business hours.  The phone number is (503) 872-6873. For an after- hours emergency, call 1-800-452-0311.


It is also anticipated that medical service volunteers will be needed. Information from health care professionals should be referred to the Samaritan Health Systems hotline at (541) 768-6289. The phone line will be staffed during business hours. When needed, the deployment of volunteer medical staff will also be coordinated through state systems.


Allan said that officials in the states hit by Hurricane Katrina have said they would identify the type of assistance needed, and have asked that people not just show up on their own. They are concerned about the shortages of food, water and shelter, which need to be coordinated on behalf of volunteers as well as the people in the community.


"We are expecting to receive more specific and more structured information today," said Allan. "At that point we may begin to actively identify state and local public health personnel who might be available to be deployed for a week now or in the future." Considering the extent of the devastation, public health teams may be needed in the hurricane-affected areas for the next one or two months.


Allan said that she would also encourage Oregonians to assess their personal and family emergency preparedness. For more information, go to http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_601_,00.html


"It would take only one hurricane or one earthquake or tsunami to change dramatically the course of our own lives and communities," said Allan. "We will do our best to be prepared to help."