Impacts from Disease/Contamination
…The impacts from disease or contamination could be caused by a number of factors including emerging infectious diseases, food supply contamination or poor air quality.
Disruptions can affect things like business and the economy, vulnerable people, and utilities.
…so what is it?
Emerging Infection Diseases
Emerging infectious diseases could cause large numbers of people to fall ill. These are diseases which have recently been recognised or where cases have increased over the last 20 years in a specific place or among a specific population (e.g. the Zika virus).
The likelihood of an emerging infectious disease spreading within the UK is assessed to be lower than that of a flu pandemic.
Ways of catching emerging infection diseases:
- Respiratory (airborne from one infected person to another)
- Vector-borne (spread to humans via a third-party species, e.g. Mosquitoes)
- Blood-borne (spread between humans via exposure to infected blood or blood products)
- Food-borne (spread by contaminated food/water)
- Vulnerable people exposed to lower levels of care
- Longer and more frequent disruptions to essential utilities
- Reduced levels of emergency services cover
- Disruptions to businesses and organisations through staff shortages and supply chain interruptions
- Impacts on the national and local economy
Food Supply Contamination
This could be caused by a major food contamination incident leading to illness, hospitalisation and possible fatalities until the contaminant is identified, and during the following months when a response is active.
In 2005 over 650 products were taken off the shelves in UK supermarkets due to concerns about contamination of food products with Sudan 1, a colouring agent banned in many countries.
- Reputational damage to the food industry
- Pressure on healthcare, particularly hospital referrals and demands on ambulances
- Potential national disruption to choice of foods for up to a week
- Panic buying and possible shortages of food stuffs leading to possible supermarket, catering and food outlet closures while they wait for further stock
- Environmental consequences because of incorrect disposal of contaminated products by members of the public
- Access to health care could be affected if there are a significant number of casualties causing increased demands on hospitals/GPs
Poor Air Quality
Air quality has improved significantly over recent decades. However surges in poor air quality can occur when weather conditions prevent pollution from dispersing. Air quality is also worsened by the ultraviolet light from sunshine, as it reacts with the air to generate ozone.
Poor air quality is a risk to health, particularly for those with pre-existing heart and lung conditions, and among children and the elderly.
In 2006 the UK experienced two periods of extended hot weather with associated elevated ozone and harmful airborne particles. In spring of 2015, two particle pollution episodes caused widespread poor air quality throughout the UK, with multiple areas measuring ‘High’ on the Daily Air Quality Index. Summer 2015 also contained two elevated ozone episodes
- Fatalities and physical casualties
- Pressure on healthcare, particularly hospital services and demands on ambulances and other emergency services
- Economic damage
- Environmental damage
What we do as an LRF…
- Management of demand on NHS services and social care
- Distribution of anti-viral medication
- Public awareness and media management
- Managing excessive levels of death
Name: Avian Influenza Outbreaks
Date: 2021 – 2022
Lincolnshire County Council worked closely with both the Environmental Agency and EP team throughout the year in order to map specific cases and outbreak locations for tracking when they occurred.
Requests were made for assistance from the LRF throughout. The MoD provided military assistance at affected sites around Christmas, with the LRF on stand-by to provide support. Updates were brought to strategic level meetings regularly and any outbreaks discussed.
Public Health England provided risk assessments for exposed individuals across several outbreaks, and NHS CCG colleagues provided local antivirals here appropriate. These people were then monitored for any adverse effects for around 10 days.
Affected areas were culled as appropriate and disposed of safely.