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Public Health Students Study Japan Nuke-Scale Emergency Response

Public health students are learning organization skills needed to respond to disasters like the damaged nuclear plant in Japan. The emergency response class is at the UT School of Public Health, as Ed Mayberry reports.



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Dr. Robert Emery with the UT Health Science Center is telling public health students about how they might help in a similar contamination event like in Fukushima, Japan. Or it could be an industrial or transportation accident or terrorism.

“I think it’s important for the students to understand how emergencies unfold, and also this notion of surge capacity, because in other situations, for every one person who might be truly contaminated, there could be ten or a hundred that are concerned about their contamination status, and need to be screened. And so that’s what we really want to talk about today, is how we might help in that surge capacity role.” 

Rebecca Bryson is a doctoral student at the UT School of Public Health who is interested in emergency response.

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“Natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, food-borne illness outbreaks, that H1N1, we had a big tomato/jalapeno salmonella outbreak that we worked with the CDC, so that sort of thing.”

Dr. Emery: “And this is a common device that’s used for screening for the presence of radiation. Here’s an example of a radioactive source, and you can actually hear, the speaker’s right where that hole is, right there.”

Ed Mayberry:”So what you have is a plate?”

“This is a plate that contains natually-occuring uranium, and you can actually hear the radiation emissions. And I can move that plate away and you can hear how the radiation level will drop off over time.” 

Students from the Student Epidemic Intelligence Society would respond if there were a contamination event in Houston.

“Let’s say there was an event that involved radioactive materials where we had large numbers of people who are apprehensive about their contamination status. We could actually whirl the students into motion into assisting screening those individuals rather than them going to an emergency room that might overhelm an already heavily-loaded emergncy room.”

Dr. Emery once worked at a nuclear power plant in North Carolina that’s the exact make and model of the damaged plant in Japan.