San Diego County Vulnerable to Pandemic Disease Outbreak, Officials Indicate
A Department of Defense report from a "super aggressive" virus drill done in December 2004 in San Diego details how health care providers, law enforcement and military should work to contain a potential disease outbreak, but it has yet to be released to the public, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The report, which analyzed weaknesses in the region's public health system, either has not been released to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency or could not be found, a county spokesperson said.
Clete DiGiovanni, a Pentagon psychiatrist with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said, "There are issues ... in a military setting that aren't appropriate to discuss in the open."
According to the Union-Tribune, San Diego County is considered particularly vulnerable to an outbreak because of:
- Frequently traveling military personnel living in close quarters in the region;
- The county's tourism industry;
- A shortage of hospital beds and nurses; and
- The county's border with Mexico, which might not have a precise or quick enough disease surveillance system.
- A lack of agreements on who would assume the lead role when military, federal, civilian and tribal agencies are involved;
- Acknowledgment that nonmedical military officers and public officials "required convincing that they had crucial roles";
- An absence of quarantine procedures; and
- The lack of a system to reimburse quarantined individuals for lost pay.
DiGiovanni said the drill indicated that "it was clear to all that they were going to have a mounting, growing problem and they needed to look at how they were going to implement a quarantine plan that was effective and doable."
Bowen said the threat of an outbreak is "extremely serious" and that the county is developing a "work quarantine procedure" for hospitals to monitor health care providers in the workplace while they are caring for possibly infected patients.
The Union-Tribune reports that improvements to the 211 human-services hotline are being made and that enforcement procedures for a quarantine and isolation are under consideration (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/16).