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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Environmental Health Preparedness

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During emergencies, we can provide guidance to both Incident Command and county health departments regarding possible human health risks from environmental components. We can also provide information to be used by the county health departments during responses that involve accidental spills, waste disposal, and water contamination. To maximize our success, we conduct trainings and exercises with our partners and regional strike teams throughout the state. Protecting drinking water supplies
Controlling food and waterborne illness
Preventing arthropod-borne diseases and zoonoses
Controlling biomedical waste
Protecting the public from radiation
Preventing chemical exposure
EH Preparedness Publications

Protecting drinking water supplies

During an emergency involving public water system contamination, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), in coordination with the Florida Department of Health, takes actions necessary to protect the health of the public, such as issuing a precautionary boil water notice. County Health Departments can assist the FDEP by notifying potentially affected Floridians. The Surgeon General is responsible for declaring public health emergencies and issuing public health advisories.

We have a parcel-based inventory indicating the drinking water source and wastewater disposal method for developed parcels throughout the State of Florida.  This inventory helps to improve estimations of the potential impact to public health and the environment during a disaster.  This inventory also assists with allocating resources efficiently.

County health departments have access to education material for homeowners related to flooded wells.

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Controlling food and waterborne illness

Together, with the county health departments and the Bureau of Epidemiology team that includes a statewide coordinator, seven regional food and waterborne illness epidemiologists and a laboratorian, we are responsible for investigating illness outbreaks, intentional or otherwise, associated with food and water consumption and recreational water use. Symptoms may vary minor to severe.

As part of this function, food product recalls are issued when conditions are discovered that make food products potentially unsafe for eating. Local, state and federal agencies work collaboratively to protect Florida’s complex food industry comprised of a multitude of meat and dairy herds, manufacturers, processing plants and food distributors, retail stores, restaurants, schools, institutions and food facilities. As a collaborative team, the Florida agencies that regulate food, which includes Florida Departments of Health, Agriculture and Consumer Services and Business and Professional Regulation, along with the Division of Emergency Management would respond jointly with law enforcement to any intentional or accidental contamination of our food supply.

We also conduct assessment at temporary shelters during emergency.

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Preventing arthropod-borne diseases and zoonoses

With our interagency partners, we monitor incidences of arbovirus and other vector-borne diseases within human and animal populations, including West Nile (WN), Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE), St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), Everglades (EVE) and the California serogroup viruses.

Surveillance and rapid diagnostic techniques used in threat recognition can shorten public health response time and reduce the geographic spread of infected vectors, which ultimately decreases the cost of containing them. In coordination with other state, local and federal agencies, mosquito-borne surveillance activities include evaluating mosquito populations, sentinel chickens, wild birds and other animal cases to detect the risk of disease before it occurs in people. Continual surveillance of these wildlife populations could also identify a vector intentionally introduced to negatively impact public health or economic interests.

In addition to aroboviruses, many emerging infectious diseases are from animal contact (i.e., zoonoses). Our veterinary public health team works closely with other agencies to determine the threat level and response needed to reduce the risk of human disease from zoonoses, including rabies.

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Controlling biomedical waste

The DOH County Health Departments (CHDs) have primary authority and responsibility for facilities that generate, transport, store, or treat biomedical waste through processes other than incineration. These facilities include hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, laboratories, funeral homes, dentists, veterinarians and physicians. When biomedical waste is improperly managed, it places health care workers, sanitation workers and the general public at risk for contracting dangerous diseases.

Complaints concerning biomedical waste are investigated by DOH CHDs. Additionally, small amounts of improperly disposed biomedical waste are cleaned up under DOH supervision. Emergency situations are referred to the State Warning Point. During emergencies, the Biomedical Waste Program Manager can provide technical information and advice on protecting health care workers, environmental-service staff, waste haulers and the general public from risks associated with potentially infectious biomedical waste.

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Protecting the public from radiation

Environmental Health and the Bureau of Radiation Control conduct population monitoring during a response involving radiation exposure. One place this can occur is at a community reception center.

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Preventing chemical exposure

Chemical exposures may occur by inhalation, absorption and consumption. We can give technical assistance to partners as needed.

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