Over the past few years, we have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as things like measles outbreaks, train derailments, wildfire smoke and more.
Our response to the MPOX outbreak last year demonstrates what we do and why we do it. In honor of Public Health Preparedness Month, we’re taking a closer look at how we’re working to keep you safe during a public health emergency.
Always ready to protect your health.
Epidemiologists in Pierce County and across the country are constantly working behind the scenes to identify new disease trends. In May 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert about Mpox cases in countries that typically do not have Mpox cases.
We have activated a response team. We met regularly with healthcare providers to share information. And we reached out to local organizations that could help reach those most at risk, such as the Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF) and the Rainbow Center.
When the first case arrived in Pierce County in July, we were prepared. Our goals were:
- Coordinate and share accurate and timely information with the public, healthcare providers, stakeholders and other authorities.
- Protect healthcare, first responders and the public.
- Monitor cases, particularly in high-risk groups.
- Understand the needs and preferences of affected populations.
- Secure the vaccine and get it to the people who need it most.
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Our partners told us that people in the vulnerable community were fearful because demand for vaccines was outstripping supply. That’s why our nurses and community engagement team participated in public forums at the Aids Housing Association of Tacoma (AHAT), PCAF, and Rainbow Center.
Behind the scenes, we have been working with the Washington State Department of Health to obtain vaccines and working with local pharmacies to distribute them to people in high-risk groups. We have also begun contact tracing to notify people who may have been exposed.
The more cases we reported, the more questions we got. We have added case numbers to our main website and updated it regularly. We met with local elected officials and community leaders to provide information and provided updates on mpox to the public at our Board of Health meetings.
In September we had enough vaccine to keep up with demand. But our partners told us that many eligible people were hesitant to get vaccinated. So we published a series of social media posts about the MPOX vaccine and contracted with PCAF to reach our audience.
Step back – but stay prepared.
After five months, our case numbers were declining and we had vaccines and therapeutics available to those who needed them.
Public health emergency planning means always being ready – just in case. That’s why we’ve created a detailed plan to help us ensure we meet any emerging needs. We asked ourselves questions like:
- How can we stay prepared in the event that a wave of Mpox cases occurs again?
- What went well that we can repeat in future emergencies?
- What could we do better next time?
We have had no new cases in Pierce County since January. Time will tell if MPOX will stay with us.
No matter the next health emergency, we are here and ready to help you and your loved ones.
Learn more on our Emergency Preparedness page and subscribe to the Your Trusted Source blog for more public health updates.