The State Department of Public Health today announced its initial plan for dealing with a potential smallpox outbreak. State epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says the state has ordered nearly one-thousand doses of the smallpox vaccine to be administered to volunteers.Those volunteers will be in 14 hospitals and six regional response teams around the state. Quinlisk says those volunteers will investigate, track, and vaccinate people in the event of a smallpox outbreak. Smallpox is considered one of the top terrorist threats in the country, but Quinlisk says there’s no need to vaccinate every Iowan. She says there’s not a current case of smallpox and there hasn’t been one for 20 years. Also, Quinlisk says those who contract smallpox can still be given the vaccine three-to-four days after they get the disease. Quinlisk will likely be vaccinated as part of the state health team, but other leaders — such as the Emergency Management Director and the Governor — will NOT be vaccinated. They’re looking to see if the officials might come into contact with a smallpox patient, and if not, they won’t be vaccinated. One of the reasons not everyone will be vaccinated is there is some risk that the smallpox vaccine could cause serious illness or death. Quinlisk says those who administer the vaccine are released from liability by the Federal Defense Act, while hospital volunteers sign a waiver form when they agree to be inoculated. She says they also suggest that the health workers review their insurance to see that they’re properly covered before getting the vaccine. Quinlisk says the health department will put out an informational brochure to keep Iowans updated on the issue that’ll appear in newspapers in February. The vaccinations for the medical volunteers will begin next week and should be completed by April.
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