Morton County Emergency Preparedness Advisory on Bioterrorism

Morton County agencies are meeting in an ongoing effort to communicate, coordinate and address appropriate public and private responses to suspected cases of bioterrorism. Those entities represented are:

  • Morton County Health Department
  • Morton County Emergency Management
  • Morton County Health System (including Staff and Local Physicians)
  • Morton County Commissioners
  • Kansas Department of Health and Environment
  • Harrell Funeral Home
  • Morton County Law Enforcement Center
  • Cities Of Morton County

While we are not officially linked to the events of September 11, recent terrorist threats have prompted hospitals and county services across the nation to review and upgrade their bioterrorism readiness plans. This page is a collaborative effort of all represented to communicate to the citizens of Morton County that plans are being developed within our community to upgrade infectious disease surveillance and investigation, to enhance the ability of our hospital system to deal with large numbers of casualties and to improve communication capabilities.

Facts About Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism is the intentional or threatened use of viruses, bacteria, fungi, or toxins from living organisms to produce death or disease in humans, animals, or plants. The threat of chemical, biological, and radiological agents has become a focus of counter-terrorism efforts because these weapons have a number of characteristics that make them attractive to terrorists. Specifically, biological agents pose perhaps the greatest threat. Dispersed via the air handling system of a large public building, for example, a very small quantity may produce as many casualties as a large truck full of conventional explosives, making acquisition, storage, and transport of a powerful weapon much more feasible. Some chemical, biological and radiological agents may be delivered as "invisible killers"; colorless, odorless, and tasteless aerosols or gases.

The distinguishing feature of some biological agents - such as plague or smallpox is their ability to spread. The victim may even become a source of infection to additional victims. The effects of viruses, bacteria and fungi may not become apparent until days or weeks after initial exposure, so there will be no concentration of victims in time and locale to help medical personnel arrive at the diagnosis. Exposure to biological agents may cause a variety of symptoms, including high fever, skin blisters, muscle paralysis, sever pneumonia, or death, if untreated.

Disaster Readiness

The Morton County agencies listed earlier are taking actions to meet the challenges of this new reality. We are upgrading existing readiness plans to meet this new challenge.

Among the strategies to accomplish this are the following:

  • Maintain disaster plans that, while flexible enough to respond to a wide range of events, are tailored to the specific needs of Morton County;
  • Increase coordination among local agencies, such as public health, police, fire, and emergency medical systems;
  • Expand training of nurses, doctors, and other caregivers in chemical/biological incident response; and
  • Review inventory levels and sources of drugs and other supplies to ensure that adequate amounts are available if a disaster occurs.

The best way for a family to be safe is to be as prepared as possible before any disaster strikes. Consistent with long-standing guidelines on disaster preparedness, families should plan to provide necessities for themselves for a 3 to 4 day period, in the event that they have to remain inside their home for safety. Such a plan will assist a family to live through a natural emergency such as an earthquake as well as a bioterrorist attack.

Guidelines for Protection

The Morton County Emergency Preparedness Guidelines offer a practical approach for protecting your family if you become aware that chemical or biological agents have been released in your immediate area.

  • Go indoors immediately; close all doors and windows.
  • Shut off all sources of air exchange into or out of the building including furnaces, air conditioners, range hoods, ventilation fans, and fireplace dampers and doors.
  • Go to an interior room located as high within the structure as possible and seal the doors and windows with sheet plastic and duct tape. Wet rolled towels can be substituted for tape at the bottom of the doors.
  • Turn on a television or radio to a local station to learn important emergency information.
  • Standing under a running shower or breathing through a moist cloth may be helpful.

Suggested Supplies to Have on Hand

A battery-operated radio

  • Flashlight
  • Water supply for three days
  • First aid kit
  • Any special need items such as medication, baby food, diapers, etc.

A response may vary depending on the type of chemical/biological agent involved.

Questions & Concerns

Questions or concerns may be directed to the Morton County Health Department at 620-697-2612 or Morton County Law Enforcement at 620-697-4313.

It is important to access law enforcement rather than the hospital emergency room or clinic.

If the biological/chemical agent is carried into our health care facilities, the potential for spread would be greatly increased. The subsequent investigative process would temporarily shut down the delivery of essential health care services to Morton County and surrounding areas.