Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats tabletop exercise: foodborne toxoplasmosis outbreak on college campuses.
The use of tabletop exercises as a tool in emergency preparedness and response has proven to be an effective means of assessing readiness for unexpected events. Whereas most exercise developers target a population in a defined space (eg, state, county, metropolitan area, hospital), the Southeastern Center for Emerging Biologic Threats (SECEBT) conducted an innovative tabletop exercise involving an unusual foodborne outbreak pathogen, targeting public health agencies and academic institutions in 7 southeastern states. The exercise tested the ability of participants to respond to a simulated foodborne disease outbreak affecting the region. The attendees represented 4 federal agencies, 9 state agencies, 6 universities, 1 nonprofit organization, and 1 private corporation. The goals were to promote collaborative relationships among the players, identify gaps in plans and policies, and identify the unique contributions of each organization-and notably academic institutions-to outbreak recognition, investigation, and control. Participants discussed issues and roles related to outbreak detection and management, risk communication, and coordination of policies and responsibilities before, during, and after an emergency, with emphasis on assets of universities that could be mobilized during an outbreak response. The exercise generated several lessons and recommendations identified by participants and evaluators. Key recommendations included a need to establish trigger points and protocols for information sharing and alerts among public health, academic, and law enforcement; to establish relationships with local, state, and federal stakeholders to facilitate communications during an emergency; and to catalogue and leverage strengths, assets, and priorities of academic institutions to add value to outbreak responses.
Morris, JG; Greenspan, A; Howell, K; Gargano, LM; Mitchell, J; Jones, JL; Potter, M; Isakov, A; Woods, C; Hughes, JM
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