After dealing with two communicable disease scares this year, Paterson is strengthening its capacity for rapid response.
Municipal officials received a $95,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Health this month for a so-called communicable disease strike team. Funds will go towards training 13 employees and equipping them with tablets to better collect data, said officials.
“This is to just enhance the effort,” said health director Oshin Castillo. She said the strike team will help to “prevent an outbreak from occurring.”
Mayor Andre Sayegh said training will boost the number of people able to handle communicable disease response from 2 to 13. Presently, employees collect data using pencil and papers then input them into a computer.
With the tablets the employees will be able the insert collected data into the state’s communicable disease software, said health officer Paul Persaud. He said training will focus on foodborne outbreak and communicable disease investigation.
Three training sessions will be held, said the health officer, beginning in January. He said experts from the Louisiana State University, which is contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will come to the city to provide two-day intensive training to the 13 employees.
Persaud said foodborne outbreak training will involve the 13 employees and 10 others to ensure all nurses and environmental health specialists are trained.
“We know this is a regional issue,” said Sayegh. Neighboring towns, some of which are served by Paterson, will benefit from the strike team. “We have to be ready and properly prepared.”
Castillo pointed out the city has a “great team” in place at the Paterson Health Department that handled the meningitis scare in January and the Hepatitis A incident in October. Health employees vaccinated as many as 300 people last month who may have been exposed to Hepatitis A by coming in contact with produced handled by an infected worker.
“This grant will boost the Strike Team’s capabilities to respond to large scale communicable disease outbreaks throughout Passaic county or anywhere help is needed,” said Persaud.