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Infectious Disease Emergencies: Programs and Activities

In San Francisco there are several programs and activities dedicated to emergency preparedness.  Read more below.


Advanced Practice Center

The San Francisco Bay Area Advanced Practice Center (APC) serves as a resource for the public health community nationwide by developing and sharing tools and materials that will advance public health preparedness. Funded by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the San Francisco Bay Area APC is currently developing several toolkits that will help local health agencies prepare for, respond to, and recover from bioterrorism and infectious disease emergencies. The Infectious Disease Emergency Response Toolkit will provide health departments with guidance and templates for preparing for and responding to infectious disease emergencies, with a focus on the various public health functions that must take place during such a response. The Seasonal & Pandemic Influenza Vaccination Assessment Toolkit, produced in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Center for Infectious Diseases & Emergency Readiness (CIDER), will assist local health departments in conducting surveys and assessments to inform seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccination planning and activities. Both toolkits, along with trainings to support the use of these new materials, will be available for dissemination beginning in September 2010. 


Click here to learn more.



BioWatch is a federal program that continuously screens the environment for harmful aerosolized bilogical agents by collecting outdoor air samples from specialized air sampling devices mounted on outdoor monitors throughout San Francisco.  The air sampling filters are retrieved and transported periodically to a local CDC-coordinated laboratory for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. If a biological pathogen is detected, the laboratory performs a second PCR test for confirmation. A culture may also be initiated to assess viability and antimicrobial sensitivities. A confirmed positive result would initiate a major response from local, regional, state, and federal agencies. Depending on the biological threat, community clinicians may serve a very important public health and medical role. The San Francisco Department of Public Health is actively working with regional partners on a BioWatch Advisory Committee to plan a regional response. For more information on BioWatch and the USPS Biohazard Detection System, read "Anthrax in the Air?" (June/July 2005 edition of San Francisco Medicine)


Cities Readiness Initiative

The San Francisco Department of Public Health is one of over 21 cities nationwide working under a special federal grant, the Cities Readiness Initiative, to prepare for an outbreak that involves the need for a citywide mass prophylaxis response. Point-of-dispensing (POD) sites throughout the City will be set up in strategic locations to dispense appropriate antibiotics to the entire population of San Francisco as quickly and efficiently as possible. The San Francisco Department of Public Health is responsible for planning to receive, store, and stage the CDC's Strategic National Stockpile of medications and supplies, as well as creating and maintaining the citywide plan for antibiotic and/or vaccine distribution in the event of an infectious disease emergency. This could include bioterrorist agents such as anthrax or smallpox and naturally occurring diseases such as pandemic influenza or meningococcal disease.

Electronic Laboratory Reporting

The Communicable Disease Control Unit is collaborating with San Francisco hospitals and their laboratories to develop an electronic system that allows hospitals to send their laboratory test results for reportable communicable diseases, securely and automatically, to the Health Department. The goal of the project is to enhance the completeness, accuracy, timeliness, and security of reports.  Electronic reporting will enhance the ability of the San Francisco Department of Public Health to identify and contain disease outbreaks and understand the epidemiology of communicable diseases.

Infection Control Working Group

The Bioterrorism and Infectious Disease Emergencies (BIDE) Unit is working closely with infection control professionals in San Francisco and other interested parties to address areas of common concern including infection control and hospital preparedness for potential infectious disease emergencies.  The San Francisco Department of Public Health brings together members of hospital infection control committees on a regular basis to assess current hospital infection control preparedness and to develop citywide infection control recommendations. The San Francisco Infection Control Working Group (SFICWG) also serves as a forum for educational activities on specific bioterrorism agents and as a place to communicate infection control issues with disaster coordinators, hospital committees, and groups addressing personal protective equipment issues.


Sentinel Event Enhanced Passive Surveillance Project (SEEPS)

The Sentinel Event Enhanced Passive Surveillance (SEEPS) Project is working closely with San Francisco clinicians to strengthen their ability to recognize, diagnose, treat, and report emerging infections and diseases that may result from biological terrorism . Activities include development of an infectious disease emergencies reference materials and clinician outreach and training.

US Postal Service Biohazard Detection System

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has implemented Biohazard Detection Systems in mail processing and distribution centers to detect anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) in mailed envelopes. Detection of potential anthrax exposures would prompt a facility evacuation, decontamination of personnel, and distribution of prophylactic antibiotics for potentially exposed employees. Health department officials would initiate preventive health interventions for employees after the evacuation and, along with community clinicians, provide guidaince to USPS employees and visitors who had left the facility up to 90 minutes prior to the alarm, as well as those learning about the possibility of anthrax through the news media. In the event of a potential detection the San Francisco Department of Public Health will provide additional, updated guidance for clinicians in preparing and managing a BDS Alert on its website.


On July 20th, 2005, the City and County of San Francisco conducted the Biohazard Detection System (BDS) Alert Response Exercise that involved local emergency responders and USPS employees. This full scale, field-mobilization exercise conducted at the USPS San Francisco Mail Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) evaluated a multi-agency response to a positive result for anthrax from the mail processing equipment. Main functionalities that were exercised include: Unified Command, employee evacuation, decontamination, mass prophylaxis, cartridge removal and transport, and education to the general and clinician community.


Click here to download the After Action Report which includes a summary of the lessons learned from activities conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) during this exercise.

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