DHHR Wraps Up Meeting with CDC
Officials with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bureau for Public Health wrapped up their 3-day meeting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The purpose of the meetings was for CDC to provide consultation on West Virginia’s public health surveillance after the January 9 Elk River Chemical Spill.
The CDC has committed to partnering with DHHR to develop plans that will allow the state to monitor a number of health outcomes over a long-term period. While this will not be directed toward the specific population involved in the chemical spill, it will allow health officials to closely monitor any significant changes or “spikes” in health care indicators. The monitoring is not on an individual level or even a specific event level, but it will closely monitor the overall health indicators in the state.
“The last few days have generated valuable discussions from federal, state and local health experts,” said West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling. “We look forward to continued collaboration with CDC to ensure the health and well-being of our citizens.”
“We had a good discussion of actions that can be taken to further monitor population health, environmental hazards and strengthen future response to environmental events. We will be following up with the state to finalize plans. When the results of the National Toxicology Program’s toxicity testing are available, they will inform West Virginia’s efforts to monitor possible longer-term health effects among residents," said Dr. Judy Qualters, director of the CDC’s Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director and health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said the visit from CDC officials shows there is a continuing interest on the federal level in restoring the confidence of the citizens in the nine-county area affected by the Jan. 09 chemical spill into the Elk River.
“DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and our congressional delegation—particularly Sen. Joe Manchin—pointed out the importance of continued studies to CDC, and they responded,” Gupta said. “We are moving toward restoring the confidence of our citizens by making a plan to study any possible long-term effects of the chemical spill.”
Some of the CDC experts included for the 3-day meeting were the director of the CDC’s Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, an Epidemiologist with the National Environmental Health Tracking Program, an Environmental Epidemiologist, an Information Technology Specialist, an Environmental Health Scientist, and a Communications Specialist. West Virginia’s experts included the Cabinet Secretary and various staff, the Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health and State Health Officer and various staff, the State Epidemiologist, the director of the Office of Environmental Health Services, and several local health department directors.
Allison C. Adler ■ DHHR Director of Communications ■ (304) 558-7899 ■ email@example.com