Saturday, May 10, 2008

Are we ready for 'the new normal?'

You may have seen news stories on the train that was quarantined in Canada because of a potential infectious disease outbreak. This article looks at the incident from the pubic health side and should be a wake-up call for the future of EMS challenges to come. The article states:

But public health officials say it was the type of rapid reaction needed to detect and contain future SARS-like outbreaks. Further, they said this kind of lightning-fast response to clusters of unusual illnesses is actually a sign the system is working.

"Had we had that high level of suspicion in Toronto, for example, at the beginning of SARS, they may not have had the number of cases they subsequently had," said Dr. Perry Kendall, British Columbia's chief medical officer of health.

"So I think it's important that this is the new normal. And I think we will have events that turn out not to be events as we try and screen for events that might be events."

Are we prepared for this type of event? We spend quite a bit of time on hazmat and terrorist situations (which may surface as cases like this) but we don't associate with our public health responsibilities as much as we do our public safety responsibilities.

It is a classic resurfacing of the "Is EMS healthcare or public safety?" question. The answer to this question won't be offered in this blog (at least today), but one thing is certain, we will be forced into our public health role whether we are ready or not.

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