From the regular seasonal flu, to a potential avian flu pandemic, the West Nile Virus to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), health concerns can create panic and cause loss of life. MEMA works in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Centers for Disease Control to help residents prepare for public health events.
Flu pandemics are relatively rare (there were only three in the 20th century) but the recent outbreaks of avian influenza among poultry in Asia and Europe, and associated human cases, heighten the need for pandemic planning now.
A biological event would most likely be caused by terrorist activity (see the Terrorism/Civil disturbance section for more information), but an accidental release of a biological agent is possible. A number of biological agents also can affect food safety.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness and was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained.
West Nile virus (WNV) is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It has been found in humans, birds, and other animals, typically in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. In 1999, WNV was detected in the United States for the first time, and since then it has spread across the U.S.
Several other public health diseases or events can affect humans and/or animals, including the current mumps outbreak in the Midwest, mad cow disease and others.
Visit the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene 'Be Prepared' page for more information on how to prepare for and respond to a variety of emergencies.
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