Just in case: UNMC Nebraska Public Health Laboratory hosted an event to simulate testing needed after “dirty bomb” radiological event


OMAHA, Nebraska (UNMC) — In a news release:

The UNMC, Nebraska Public Health Laboratory held an exercise to simulate the tests required after a radiological “dirty bomb” incident. Continue reading the press release below.

Practice leads to mastery. And practice can save lives when responding to an emergency, such as the explosion of a dirty bomb that exposed a significant number of people to radiation.

Therefore, the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory held an exercise last week to simulate the type of organized specimen collection that would be required following a radiological event such as a dirty bomb to determine who had been exposed to radiation.

Participants included leaders from the college’s Center for Biosecurity, Biopreparedness, and Emerging Infectious Diseases and NPHL, as well as nursing personnel from Omaha’s ambulatory surgery centers.

Keith Hansen, co-director of the CBBEID and exercise facilitator, remarked, “The beautiful thing about this type of collaborative activity is that we learn what to repair.” Nothing begins without imperfections, and we are identifying those that can be fixed.

Officials from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Douglas County Department of Health were also present as health and testing professionals simulated the type of collaborative, multi-organizational team that would be required to provide testing services in the event of a real-life radiological incident.

Since 2015, NPHL and Omaha’s ambulatory surgery centers have partnered on such simulated emergency situations.

“NPHL has always recognized the need for more thorough strategies in mass specimen collecting in the community,” stated Karen Stiles, state training coordinator for NPHL. “The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic made us recognize the importance of collecting more than simply nasopharyngeal swabs.” The ambulatory surgery centers provided the necessary nursing staff to take blood and collect urine.”

Volunteers, including public health students from UNMC, acted as individuals entering a testing center. To increase the authenticity of the activity, some of the participants acted as difficult or terrified patients.

Assistant Director of the NPHL Anthony Sambol, who acted as a patient during the exercise, was satisfied with the testing team’s response to a few unexpected situations.

Sambol remarked, “I gave some folks a hard time as I went through, and they responded quite effectively, making the necessary adjustments.”

“The same ideas we’re employing today would apply to a real-world situation,” he said. “The same regions would be required for collecting urine samples and blood samples. It may be set up differently depending on the testing site and number of individuals, but the activities and stages are identical.”

“Every month, NPHL and the ambulatory surgery facilities meet to discuss emergency preparation, not only for specimen collection but also for other types of crises,” stated Stiles. We could not accomplish this without their help.

Hansen was thrilled to see public health students from UNMC assisting at the event.

It is excellent that they are here because they will be creating the clinics of the future.


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