The Loudoun County Health Department is seeking about 1,000 health workers and other volunteers to staff clinics in the event of bioterrorism or an epidemic that would require all 200,000 county residents to be vaccinated or receive medications within four days.
"Anyone who would like to volunteer would be very helpful," said Public Health Director David Goodfriend. "Most of the jobs in these clinics would be nonmedical," such as distributing forms and ushering patients through the vaccination process, he said.
Volunteers must attend a training session for several hours and not have any commitments that would prevent them from serving at a clinic -- such as family responsibilities or belonging to a rescue squad or other emergency response group. They may have to undergo a background or reference check.
Goodfriend emphasized the "minimal time commitment" required, perhaps just the orientation session and reading information updates that the department would send in the mail. "We don't expect that we would ever need to use these volunteers," he said.
Loudoun experienced a limited emergency situation when a letter containing anthrax passed through the State Department's diplomatic mail facility in Sterling in October 2001 and mail worker David Hose of Winchester was hospitalized. Health Department workers doled out antibiotics to more than 40 people who might have been exposed to that anthrax.
"That was the low end," Goodfriend said. In his worst-case scenario, in which all county residents are exposed to smallpox, volunteers would have to staff as many as eight clinics across the county. Goodfriend would not give the location of the clinics, saying he did not want them to become terrorist targets.
Other possible emergency health situations include large-scale exposure to anthrax or to radiation from a dirty bomb. Health officials chose the four-day vaccination goal because a vaccine administered within four days of exposure to smallpox can prevent the most severe manifestation of that disease. Loudoun's emergency vaccination plans are based on the program in place in Fairfax County.
Those interested in volunteering can download a form at www.loudoun.gov/health/mass.htm.