A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Mr. Yuk and the limitation of the symbol. Poison centers embrace their traditional service in helping mothers and other care givers care their little loved ones when they may have ingested a potentially harmful substance; 50% of the calls that the Illinois Poison Center receives involve children 5 and under. Poison centers however do so much more.
A great example is the role of poison centers play in an emerging public health crisis with the 24/7 information services that they provide to the public and healthcare professionals.
- In 2009, poison centers around the nation took on the role of providing H1N1 flu line services to their regions. Information about the flu including medical effects, when to see a healthcare provider, information about anti-viral medications, vaccines, side effects from vaccines, and where to get vaccines were the common questions fielded. The Illinois Poison Center managed several thousand such calls at the end of 2009.
- In 2010, poison centers in the Gulf states were charged with providing information and gathering data on the Deepwater Horizon gulf oil spill. 24/7 information was provided on both the hazards and treatment of exposure to hazardous substances from the spill itself as well as the clean-up agents used to disperse the oil accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Now in 2011, poison centers are being asked to provide information to the general public and healthcare providers nationwide on the ongoing nuclear power plant crisis in Japan.
The CDC and poison centers have agreed that poison centers will be the initial point of radiation information for the general public around the nation. The latest CDC web pages as well as printed materials developed for travelers returning from Japan have the National Poison Help number of 1-800-222-1222 as the number for concerned individuals to call if they have concerns about radiation exposure.
For every case in which information is provided to the general public or healthcare provider, the poison centers upload pertinent data to a national server. Every day, the CDC can see how many calls concerning radiation are received nationally by poison centers. This provides significant situational awareness of the concerns of the public and those that care for them.
To date, calls to poison centers regarding radiation peaked in mid-March and most of them were from the west coast population. As the events in Japan unfold however, if there is need for trusted information of what to do and how to do it, the Illinois Poison Center will be ready.
The Illinois Poison Center provides valuable services in a public health emergency like pandemic flu or radiation emergencies.
- Keeping Illinois Safe: Hazard surveillance & Public health safety
- You might say the Illinois Poison Center is the antidote to unnecessary health care costs
- Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
- IPC: Providing Toxicology Consults in Illinois
- Did You Know…Poison Centers Are a Vital Part of Disaster Response?