Public Health Preparedness (PHP) Frequently Asked Questions

PHP Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to prepare for a public health emergency?

For more information about what you and your family can do to prepare for a public health emergency including creating a Household Disaster Plan, check out our Public Health Preparedness (PHP) program page: Are You Prepared? Also be sure to visit our Federal and Nevada Public Health Preparedness Partners websites for a wealth of information regarding emergency preparedness.

What is seasonal influenza (flu)?

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people. It is estimated that in the United States, each year on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Certain populations (i.e. young children, women who are pregnant, and older individuals) can be at greater risk for more serious complications from the flu. The best way to prepare and prevent the seasonal flu is for those six months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. For more information about the seasonal flu and the flu vaccine, click on the following link:

How much food and water should I have on hand in case of emergency?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines suggest maintaining a water supply of one gallon per person per day in the event of a public health emergency; at minimum you should have a three day supply of food and water on hand for each member of your household. Keep in mind that in the event of an emergency where you do not have access to clean water, you may need portions of your emergency water supply for uses other than drinking (i.e. cooking, etc.). When using bottled water as your emergency storage supply, remember to rotate your water stockpile every six months to ensure proper storage. Also, don’t forget about your pets! Be sure to plan for extra water for your pet(s). For more information regarding building/maintaining an emergency supply of food and water as well as other items you might need in an emergency, click on the following link:

What are Nevada's top threats to public health?

Every community should understand the risks it faces. By understanding its risks, a community can make smart decisions about how to manage risk, including developing needed capabilities. Risk is the potential for an unwanted outcome resulting from an incident, event, or occurrence, as determined by its likelihood and the associated consequences. By considering changes to these elements, a community can understand how to best manage and plan for its greatest risks across the full range of the threats and hazards it faces. Through a process developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA), Nevada has determined the top threats to public health include: earthquake, wildfire, flood, and pandemic influenza.

How prepared is Nevada for a public health emergency?

The state of Nevada has emergency response plans in place to deal with hazardous chemical or biological events, as well as other disasters; local health departments across Nevada exercise these plans on a regular basis. These plans involve the coordination of multiple agencies involved in law enforcement, public health, fire, emergency medical services (EMS) and disaster response, in conjunction with other city, county, state and federal officials. Additionally, the State PHP program is improving rapid detection systems which will assist in the investigation of disease outbreaks at the first indication of a biological attack. Early detection is key in identifying and appropriately managing persons at risk. Stockpiles of antibiotics that are effective against the most likely bacterial bioterrorist agents are already in place and would be made available in the event of a bioterrorist attack.

What is bioterrorism?

Bioterrorism can be described as the use, or threatened use, of biological agents to promote or spread fear or intimidation upon an individual, a specific group, or the population as a whole for religious, political, ideological, financial, or personal purposes. These biological agents, with the exception of smallpox virus, are typically found in nature in various parts of the world. They can be however, weaponized to enhance their virulence in humans and make them resistant to vaccines and antibiotics. This usually involves using selective reproduction pressure or recombinant engineering to mutate or modify the genetic composition of the agent. Terrorists may choose to use biological weapons to achieve their goals because a very small amount can harm many people. And, it is reported that many of these agents would be relatively easy to prepare and easy to hide. Their use would also allow for bioterrorists to protect themselves and escape before any illness is detected. However, the strongest feature of bioweapons may be the tremendous psychological impact that their use, or threatened use, would create in the population.

What are some of the diseases possibly associated with an act of bioterrorism?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have listed a group of diseases that are of highest concern because they have one or more of these characteristics: can be easily spread person to person; can cause high mortality; can cause public panic and fear; or can require special action for public health preparedness. This "Category A" list includes anthrax, plague, smallpox, botulism, tularemia and viral hemorrhagic fevers (such as Marburg and Ebola).

How likely is a bioterrorist attack in Nevada?

Regardless of changes in the current terror threat level, Nevada's preparedness efforts remain constant. The State PHP program continues to focus its efforts on enhancing the ability to detect and respond to such an event, should it occur.

What can I do to protect myself and my family against bioterrorism?

Prepare as you would for an earthquake, power outage or other emergency, including ensuring that you have a portable radio, flashlight, extra batteries, medications and several days supply of food and water for your family. Have a plan to contact all family members if something happens during the work day. The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (or their authorized agency) will use the news media to release information and instructions you may need to protect your health.

What is radiological terrorism?

This type of terrorism may likely occur as a "dirty bomb," which involves the release of radioactive materials. A dirty bomb, or radiation dispersal device, is a conventional, explosive bomb to which radioactive material has been added. The blast of the weapon itself is capable of causing harm, and also becomes airborne and spreads the radioactive material to the surrounding area. The real threat of radiological terrorism is one of fear and disruption.

What is chemical terrorism?

A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment. Chemical agents include sarin, mustard gas, cyanides, acids, VX nerve agent and ricin. These agents can be released into the air as a gas or liquid, or into a water supply as a liquid; food and clothing can also become contaminated.