JEFFERSON CITY, MissouriGov. Jay Nixon today participated in a roundtable discussion on advances in Missouri’s capability to respond to public health threats, including viruses like Zika and Ebola, at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City. The roundtable included state and local public health officials, representatives from Missouri hospital and health care providers, and public safety officials.

“Over the last eight years, as diseases like H1N1, Ebola and Zika have raised the public attention to public health threats, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, local public health agencies and Missouri hospitals have been advancing their response capabilities and coordination,” Gov. Nixon said. “At the state level, we’ve consolidated our public health emergency response planning and exercise unit into the State Emergency Management Agency to better coordinate those functions across disciplines and prepare for emergencies.”

The Missouri Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City is one of a few select labs designated as both a Zika and Ebola testing laboratory by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC designation means the Missouri lab is able to provide testing of Zika and Ebola samples, ensuring Missourians get timely and accurate results.

Since April 2016, when the Jefferson City lab was designated as a Zika testing lab by the CDC, nearly 500 individuals have been tested by the laboratory, with 30 positive cases. (In each case, the infection occurred outside the state of Missouri.) In October 2014, the state lab was designated by the CDC as an Ebola testing laboratory. Two individuals were tested by the state lab and both were negative.

At the Governor’s direction, in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, SEMA and DHSS held Ebola response training and an exercise that included representatives from hospitals, local public health agencies, emergency medical services, law enforcement and local government.

Gov. Nixon also pointed to the following public health achievements:

H1N1 Pandemic – In 2009, the Department of Health and Senior Services and local public health agencies statewide coordinated the distribution of 1.6 million doses of H1N1 influenza vaccines. The vaccine distribution was part of the first and only implementation of the Strategic National Stockpile in Missouri.

Health Care System Preparedness – In 2012, Missouri supported the establishment of regional health care coalitions representing hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local public health agencies, emergency medical services, law enforcement and emergency managers to prepare, train and exercise regional community partners to prepare for health emergencies within their regions and statewide. There are currently seven health care coalitions active in Missouri. They are largely funded by DHSS in collaboration with the Missouri Hospital Association.
Public Health – Law Enforcement Integration – In Missouri, public health agencies have a strong partnership with law enforcement when it comes to emergency preparedness and response, ensuring the capability to more quickly deploy resources if needed to secure and deliver vaccine supplies in an emergency.

Preparation for public health emergencies, including outbreaks of food-borne illness – In 2012, a Rapid Response Team was established to implement an incident command team for interstate outbreaks of food-borne illness, so information can be shared in a timely and efficient manner across agencies. The team has been activated in three national food-borne outbreaks.
The roundtable also focused on the key role of Missouri’s public health system played during the response to and recovery following the May 2011 EF-5 Joplin tornado, one of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history:

Missouri’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team arrived in Joplin within hours of the tornado, establishing a temporary emergency room, treating 157 patients, and setting up a 60-bed mobile hospital in the parking lot of the destroyed St. John’s Hospital.
Missouri public health professionals provided 13,000 tetanus shots to affected residents.

Roundtable participants included: Peter Lyskowski, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service; Lane Roberts, director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety; Ron Walker, director of the State Emergency Management Agency; Harold Kirbey, director of DHSS Division of Community and Public Health; Bill Whitmar, director of Missouri State Public Health Laboratory; Stephanie Browning, director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services; Becky Hunt, director of the Madison County Health Department; Russ Conroy, director of Emergency Preparedness and Safety, Mercy Hospital-Springfield; Jeff Hamilton, regional manager of Emergency Management, Mercy Health System; Debbie Mays, director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness, BJC Healthcare; and Matthew Soule, director of Safety/Emergency Preparedness, Children’s Mercy Hospital.

“I commend all those who have worked to make Missouri safer and stronger by advancing our state’s disaster response and recovery capabilities,” Gov. Nixon said. “Through strong coordination and tremendous faith-based and volunteer partners, Missouri has built a response and recovery system that has been called a model for other states, but I’m interested in continuing to advance our abilities.”