Safety & emergency preparedness

Infectious disease

Philadelphia health and emergency management officials have made extensive plans with state and federal agencies so the City can act quickly if any disease or biological emergencies occur.

Current natural infectious disease threats

West Nile Virus is a disease spread by mosquitoes. It can infect humans, birds, horses, and other animals. In most cases, WNV can cause flu-like illness or may cause no symptoms at all. In some cases, especially among the elderly, it can cause serious inflammation of the brain or inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your family from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pandemic Influenza is a global outbreak that could be caused by a new flu virus (not the flu that affects people every year.) A new flu virus may spread easily from person to person, quickly making people sick. At this time, there is no pandemic influenza in the world.

Human-caused threats

Not all diseases are spread naturally. In a bio-terrorism attack, a virus, toxin, or bacteria is used against people, animals, or plants to cause fear or harm. Many of these agents can cause sickness from being inhaled, eaten, or going through a cut in the skin. Some of these agents can cause also cause contagious.

Many infectious diseases can be treated and controlled with medications and vaccines. If there is a biological attack or disease outbreak, Philadelphia will provide medication or vaccines to people at risk. If needed, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is prepared to give medicine or a vaccine to the entire population of Philadelphia within 48 hours, if the medications or vaccines are available from the federal government. To give out treatment or vaccine, the City may open Points of Dispensing (PODs). The Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) website will post the location of PODs. KYW 1060 AM radio will also announce the locations.

Limit the spread of germs

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep away from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent the spread of the illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands and practicing good hygiene.
  • Clean surfaces, regularly, that are touched by multiple people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are often spread when people touch something contaminated with germs and then touch their face.

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