Richmond-Henrico Health District breaks down monkeypox response team efforts

There are now nearly 100 cases of monkeypox in Virginia, and three of those cases are in the central region.
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - There are now nearly 100 cases of monkeypox in Virginia, and three of those cases are in the central region.

The Richmond-Henrico Health District said it formed a task force called an incident command system (ICS) to deal with the virus back in May. It comprises epidemiologists and other specialists who manage the community’s response to infectious diseases. The health district said they have the flexibility to add as many people as they need to it at any given time.

The team started with just 10 people in May. That number has now jumped to 18. Compared to the height of the pandemic, the Richmond-Henrico Health District had dozens working in its COVID command system. Before creating the incident command system, the health district had already been talking about monkeypox cases rising across the country.

“When we start testing, and we start needing to purchase PPE, and we start needing to vaccinate and have this more formal information sharing process, that’s when, in my brain, it signals we need to kind of be more formal about this,” explained Jessica Coughlin, who works as the emergency manager for the Richmond-Henrico Health District.

Once the health district learned more health services would be needed to combat monkeypox, a new team was formed.

“We were anticipating us needing to take action whether it was testing or vaccination at a larger scale,” Coughlin said.

As they continue to monitor cases, health leaders will meet each week to ensure every team member is on the same page and that they meet their goals.

“We have incident objectives that we meet, and then we have various teams within the system that have updates...when testing is needed and indicated, we have our epidemiologists approve that, and we’ll have our clinical team then do that testing and then the same for vaccinations,” stated Coughlin.

The Richmond-Henrico Health District said it plans to add more people to the monkeypox incident command system as soon as Monday. They plan to add an outreach team and eventually a finance team to help manage any federal funding.

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