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We’re prepared to protect you when public health emergencies affect Pierce County.

In recent years, we’ve responded to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as things like measles outbreaks, train derailments, wildfire smoke and more.

Our response to last year’s mpox outbreak shows what we do and why we do it. In honor of Public Health Preparedness month, let’s take a closer look at how we work to protect you during a public health emergency.

Always ready to protect your health.

Epidemiologists in Pierce County and across the country are always working behind the scenes to spot new disease trends. In May 2022, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory warning of mpox cases in countries that don’t normally have any.

We activated a response team.  We met regularly with healthcare providers to share information. And we connected with local organizations that could help reach those most at-risk, like Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF) and Rainbow Center.

When Pierce County’s first case arrived in July, we were prepared. Our goals were to:

  • Coordinate and share accurate and timely information with the public, healthcare providers, stakeholders and other agencies.
  • Protect healthcare and first responders and the public.
  • Monitor cases, especially among high-risk groups.
  • Understand the needs and preferences of affected populations.
  • Secure vaccine and get it to people who needed it most.

Updating our response to meet your needs.

Our partners told us people in the at-risk community were scared as demand for vaccine outpaced supply. So, our public health nurses and community engagement team joined public forums at Aids Housing Association of Tacoma (AHAT), PCAF and Rainbow Center.

Behind the scenes, we worked with Washington State Department of Health to get vaccine and partnered with local pharmacies to distribute it to people in high-risk groups. We also began contact tracing work to notify people who may have been exposed.

As we reported more cases, we got more questions. We added case counts to our main webpage and updated it regularly. We met with local elected and community leaders to provide info, and we presented mpox updates in public at our Board of Health meetings.

By September, we had enough vaccine to keep up with demand. But our partners told us many eligible people were hesitant to get vaccinated. So, we ran a series of social media posts about mpox vaccine and contracted with PCAF to help reach our audience.

Stand down—but stay prepared.

After five months, our case rates declined, and we had gotten vaccine and therapeutics to those who needed them.

Public health emergency planning always means being ready—just in case. So, we created a detailed plan to help us make sure we met any emerging needs. We asked ourselves questions like:

  • How can we stay prepared in case we have another surge of mpox cases?
  • What went well that we can repeat in future emergencies?
  • What could we do better next time?

We haven’t had any new cases in Pierce County since January. Time will tell if mpox is with us to stay.

No matter the next public health emergency, we’re here, and we’re prepared to help you and your loved ones.

Learn more on our Emergency Preparedness page and subscribe to the Your Reliable Source blog for more public health updates.