Key Issues > Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response
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Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response

The United States faces current and emerging public health threats from naturally-occurring diseases, the intentional release of hazardous biological agents, and other chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) leads federal efforts to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies related to the emergence or recurrence of viruses such as those that cause Zika, dengue fever, or influenza; the release of agents such as the bacteria that cause anthrax; and other CBRN agents. These public health threats have raised concerns that the nation remains vulnerable and must continue to prepare for and respond to such public health emergencies. HHS works with the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal, state, and local entities to respond to such threats. However, HHS can strengthen emergency preparedness and response by:

  • Improving planning for public health emergencies and coordination between federal departments and state and local entities involved in public health emergency response.
  • Ensuring that the nation's health care systems have "surge capacity"—the ability to respond to mass casualty events and adequately care for a sudden influx of patients with common or unusual medical needs.
  • Ensuring clear priorities are periodically reset and communicated for developing and acquiring medical countermeasures, such as drugs and vaccines, to respond to CBRN agents, emerging infectious diseases, and pandemic influenza.
  • Improving countermeasure development, such as establishing facilities to rapidly produce vaccines and countermeasures in an emergency; establishing the use of strategic investors to help fund development of new countermeasures; and improving regulatory requirements for their use.
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