U.S. cities should involve public healthcare workers as first responders to treat outbreaks of disease and biological threats, according to the National League of Cities, which calls epidemics and biohazards threats to homeland security.
"Just as 9/11 reinforced the importance of preparing police, firefighters and emergency response workers, the SARS experience in Toronto demonstrated the important role of public health workers," the Washington-based organization of 18,000 American cities, towns and villages says in a statement.
The National League of Cities recommends that public health professionals train and prepare to respond to biological threats so leaders know how to screen people for infection and quarantine and treat those who may have been exposed. An effective response should include a coordinated effort with all levels of government and channels for communicating information from medical authorities to the public.
"Don't leave out law enforcement, the business community, employers, schools and community and religious groups in training and preparation efforts," the NLC says.
In May, the organization met with public health officials in Toronto, the only area outside of Asia to report fatalities from an outbreak of the mysterious viral disease labeled severe acute respiratory syndrome. NLC officials then met with U.S. public health experts in late June to discuss lessons learned from the SARS outbreak.