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Health Department Prepared for Bioterrorism

Preparing for bioterrorism has been something the county's Department of Health has been doing since a year before Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2000, the state of Virginia received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control to build a communication infrastructure throughout the state. In the past two weeks, the department increased communications with other health departments, public safety organizations and other agencies on preparing for bioterrorism and small pox incidents.

"We're trying our best to work with other agencies throughout the region so we can be as prepared as possible. The goal of public health is to prevent disease and illness. Preparing for emergencies is one way we help prevent [that]," said David Goodfriend, district health director for the county's Department of Health.

The health department bought on two bioterrorism positions since Sept. 11, including an epidemiologist in September 2002 and an emergency planner earlier this month. The department is putting together emergency response plans to respond to biological, chemical and radiological incidents.

"Our infrastructure is already in place to respond to a potential bioterrorist attack," Goodfriend said, adding that emergencies such as power outages already have happened at the county level. "It's important for everybody to take common-sense preparations for any kind of emergencies."

Personally, Goodfriend said he has been keeping a three-day supply of water at home but has not taken any additional measures in response to the recent terrorist threat warnings.

<1b>— Shelley Widhalm