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Departments » Public Health » Health Preparedness


Public Health Preparedness

Mission Statement

Protect the health and safety of Lee County’s residents by assuring that the necessary preparedness and response capacity exists in the event of a disaster whether natural or man made.

Lee County Public Health Preparedness Team

Health care providers should immediately call the Lee County Health Department if they suspect a serious or life-threatening communicable disease at 1-919-718-4640



Public health emergency preparedness involves planning and implementing programs to rapidly detect, investigate and control a number of threats that may endanger the health of the public. These threats include emerging infectious diseases, disease outbreaks, pandemics, chemical or radiological exposures, and bioterrorism.  The Health Department is working with medical and emergency response partners at the Local, State, and Federal levels to ensure the most effective response to public health threats.

Preparedness for public health emergencies is a priority for the Lee County Health Department. To help you better understand and plan for public health emergencies, we have provided the following links for further information:

Be Prepared, Be Informed

 Information for Clinicians

Point-of-Dispensing Sites (PODS)
About Public Health Emergency Point of Dispensing Sites

What is a Point of Dispensing (POD) clinic site?  

The purpose of Point of Dispensing (POD) clinics is to provide locations where people can go to obtain preventive medications or vaccinations to protect themselves in a public health emergency.  During a large scale disease outbreak or bioterrorism event such as anthrax release or pandemic influenza, local Health Departments may open POD sites to rapidly dispense antibiotics or vaccines to members of our community potentially exposed to the disease.

Who should go to a POD to receive emergency medications or vaccines?

PODs are designed to provide medication that will PREVENT someone from becoming sick with a disease.  Only individuals who have been exposed to a life-threatening disease will be directed to receive antibiotics or vaccines at a POD.

How will I know where to get the emergency medications or vaccines at POD sites? 

Announcements will be made through the media (e.g., television, radio, newspaper, and internet) on who should come to a POD clinic site, and where and when POD clinic sites will be opened.  The Lee County Health Department has designated two locations that may serve as potential Open POD sites.

Routine medical care is not provided at an Open POD.  Persons who are already sick with the disease will not be able to seek treatment at the POD. Those persons who are ill and require treatment will be immediately referred to a medical clinic or the hospital.

Will there be a fee for the medicine?

Medicines or vaccines dispensed in response to a local, state or national emergency will be free.

What should I bring to a POD?  

You will be asked the following questions about yourself and each member of your household before being given medications or vaccines:    

1.  History of severe allergies
2.  Weight of all family members
3.  A list of current medications and medical conditions

Can I pick up medications for my infant child or disabled parent?

Yes, you may be able to pick up medications (pills) for other family members as long as you know about their allergies and medical conditions. All family members will have to come to a POD to receive a vaccine injection if that is needed.

Will there be medical staff at the PODs to answer questions?

POD clinics will be staffed primarily by government disaster workers, community volunteers and a limited number of medical staff.  No medical care will be provided at POD sites.  Individual medical screening will focus mainly on identifying persons whose medical problems or medications may interfere with the safety of the emergency medications.

Staff will hand out updated information to all attendees about the public health disease and the medications or vaccines given at the POD.  In addition, the Health Department will provide public health telephone numbers and web page locations for residents to get more information.

Pandemic Influenza

A pandemic is a global disease outbreak.  An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus (1) emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population, (2) begins to cause serious illness and then (3) spreads easily person-to-person worldwide.


Public Health Preparedness

Since September 11, 2001, and the anthrax incidents that followed, public health and hospitals have been thrust to the forefront of preparedness.  Great strides have been made in Lee County's Public Health Preparedness efforts.  The public health system is more prepared now than it has ever been before.  Public Health is better equipped, has improved its response plans, is planning regionally as well as locally, is training staff and is exercising their public health response plans across the state.

What is a Public Health Emergency?

Often we think of “public health” in terms of just disease outbreaks and immunization clinics.  Certainly influenza and other contagious diseases, as well as more unusual diseases such as West Nile virus and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), are of immediate concern.  Although influenza is common annually, many people forget that it can be deadly. Historically, more people have died from influenza and its aftermaths than any other single disease.  For many years, your local public health department has been working with hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers to prepare for the usual or unusual public health emergencies that may occur.  Some of these emergencies might be incidents of severe weather or contaminated food or drinking water. Other hazards might be chemical spills or accidental leaks. The work of public health and its planning efforts prepares us for all these types of emergencies. In recent years we have become increasingly aware of the possibility of threats from terrorism.

Understanding Public Health 

The backbone of the nation’s public health system starts at the Local Public Health Department.  Often, providing low cost health care services in communities is what many people think of when they hear the term “public health,” but those services are only a small fraction of public health activities. Through assessment, policy development and assurance, the Lee County Health Department strives to protect and promote the health of the people of Lee County by:

Preventing and controlling epidemics and the spread of communicable diseases
Educating the public and community stakeholders
Responding to and assisting communities in recovery

In a bioterrorism incident, epidemic, or infectious disease outbreak, local and state public officials will provide help, but many times local public health will be in the response forefront during the first critical minutes and hours following an incident.

Understanding How Public Health Responds in Emergencies

Whether an act of bioterrorism or infectious disease outbreak, regardless of the type of disaster, it is the job of the public health community to respond in order to protect the health of the public. To respond effectively and efficiently, public health will respond in four stages that are typical of any public health response:  Assess, Plan, Implement, and Evaluate.

Assess: It is critical to detect an act of bioterrorism or infectious disease outbreak as soon as possible in order to control the spread. Detection can occur in many ways—through an obvious scene or release of a bioterrorism agent; people presenting at hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms; high absenteeism rates in schools, workplaces and churches; or even by unusually high numbers of prescriptions being administered by pharmacists.

Plan: Once a public health emergency has been recognized or detected, public health officials will kick into high gear.  Public Health Officials are likely to begin notification of community partners, begin disease investigations through interviews and contact tracing, confirm disease or agent through using the NC Lab Network and finally, begin treating or prophylaxing emergency responders and the community if necessary.

Implement/Evaluate: Once a public health emergency has been confirmed, public health officials may use a variety of tactics to control its effects, ranging from distributing antibiotics to using quarantine strategies.

A disaster for Public Health Preparedness is an incident which overwhelms the resources and staff and requires mutual aid with other responders, community, regional, state or national resources.

Public Health Preparedness outlines critical public health responses including but not limited to isolation and quarantine, legal issues, risk communication, mutual aid, personal protective equipment, communications, mass clinic operations, agent and disease specific information, command and control, and special needs populations. 

The Local Public Health Director, in coordination with other local emergency response partners, will decide to activate, partially or fully, the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) Plan in an emergency.

Strategic National Stockpile (SNS)

The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is a national repository of critical medical supplies designed to supplement and resupply state and local public health agencies in the event of a national emergency anywhere and at any time within the United States or its territories. The goal of the SNS program is to provide rapid delivery of SNS lifesaving pharmaceuticals to any location within all U.S. states and territories within 12 hours or less from the federal decision to deploy. The SNS program is managed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is carried out in conjunction with the North Carolina Division of Public Health and Local Public Health Departments.  SNS only distributes medical supplies—it does not operate mass casualty centers.

The SNS contains multiple caches of medical supplies stored in warehouses in different regions across the country. These caches include antibiotics, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, life-support medications, intravenous (IV) administration, airway and maintenance supplies and medical/surgical items.

For more information visit:  http://emergency.cdc.gov/stockpile/index.asp

Depending on the nature of the outbreak, Public Health Officials may decide to activate a mass clinic.  Some reasons to activate a mass clinic include:  if the number of cases is high, if outbreaks occur in a number of locations, and/or if the outbreaks continue to grow despite all attempts to contain the spread. In the event of a mass clinic, an entire community or even the entire county’s population may become infected or exposed to an act of bioterrorism or infectious disease and must receive vaccination or prophylaxis. 

Using the Incident Command System, the SNS Plan is an organized approach to receive and distribute oral antibiotics or vaccines to an entire county’s population.

Pandemic Influenza Plan

All Public Health experts agree, a Pandemic Influenza is inevitable and to some extent, everyone will be affected by the pandemic.  The first wave of a pandemic may last from 1-3 months, while the entire pandemic may last for 2-3 years.   Local, State and Federal Health Officials have been aggressively planning with other healthcare partners for a pandemic influenza. Local Public Health Department plans are integrated with the North Carolina Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) plan to include guidelines for Command and Control, Surveillance, Communication, Emergency Response, Vaccine and Antiviral Medications.

For more information visit: