Knox County emergency operations plan in place for new viruses

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A basic emergency operations plan is in place in Knox County to respond quickly to outbreaks that impact the public. Included in that, a novel virus plan.

The Knox County Health Department works in a partnership with multiple agencies in the event of an outbreak. That includes local hospitals, emergency management teams, Knox County Schools, and the state health department.

The center of these plans is communication, not just between those professional partners, but the general public, too.

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“There’s a baseline of cooperation and communication that happens across the board with these partners,” said Charity Menefee, Director of Communicable and Environmental Disease and Emergency Preparedness with the Knox Co. Health Department.

Menefee said the sharing information about this preparedness plan should not make the public worry, but rather, inform those with questions about the readiness of the county.

Rarely are these new virus plans initiated to the full extent, which would include closing specific areas to stop a disease from spreading.

“Keeping people out of large events, closing schools, that type of thing can happen. That’s usually way down the line in these planning efforts,” said Menefee.

These are all available options but rarely used.

The last time the novel virus plan was put into action, according to Menefee, was in 2009 during the H1N1, or Swine Flu outbreak.

The COVID-19, or new coronavirus, is not causing local health officials to consider extremes, but they are monitoring it along with other diseases.

“There’s a host of diseases we’re looking at all the time… it’s important for people to know that when there is a new disease that is circulating…” said Menefee.

The Knox Co. Health Department recommends washing your hands often to prevent the spread of illness.

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