HHS awards grants to 5 cities for anthrax response

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Aug 3, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Five US metropolitan areas will receive a total of $400,000 in grants from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to incorporate US Postal Service (USPS) volunteers into plans to deliver antibiotics after an anthrax attack.

The National Postal Model grants will fund planning and exercises conducted with USPS workers, according to an Aug 1 press release from the office of the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Dr. Nicole Lurie.

Four local agencies will receive $50,000 grants each for initial planning and exercises:

  • Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government in Kentucky
  • Boston Public Health Commission
  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health
  • San Diego Health and Human Services Agency

In addition, the Minnesota Department of Health will receive a $200,000 grant to conduct a full-scale exercise simulating an anthrax attack in the Twin Cities metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Earlier this year the Twin Cities completed National Postal Model planning and initial exercises, an endeavor that took several years and involved about 400 USPS volunteers and a pilot $500,000 grant.

USPS volunteers are being recruited in the five metro areas to deliver antibiotics to homes quickly in the event of an anthrax attack by terrorists, because those potentially exposed would need an initial supply within 48 hours, according to the release.

"The fatality rate for people whose lungs are infected with anthrax is extremely high if they do not receive antibiotic treatment, which means the quicker health professionals can get antibiotics into people's hands, the quicker we can protect health and save lives," Lurie said in the release. "The postal model offers an additional tool for local health departments to begin treating people potentially exposed to anthrax."

Under the National Postal Model, the volunteers would pick up the antibiotic packages at a predetermined location and, escorted by law enforcement personnel, deliver them to homes in certain zip codes.

This method augments existing dispensing plans, which ask residents and visitors to go to a special antibiotic dispensing site, known as a point of dispensing, to receive an initial supply.

Plans developed and exercised under the five grants will help adapt the National Postal Model for local use, which can then be used by other local health departments across the country.

See also:

Aug 1 ASPR press release

Aug 4, 2010, CIDRAP News story "Twin Cities mail carriers prepare to deliver biodefense drugs"

Oct 2, 2008, CIDRAP News story "To blunt anthrax attack, mail carriers to get antibiotics"

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