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Public health branch incident management and support as part of the Federal Government response during the emergency phase of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

Miguel Angel Cruz, PhD, Luis O. Rivera-González, PhD, Elizabeth Irvin-Barnwell, PhD, Jessica Cabrera-Marquez, PhD, Esther Ellis, PhD, Brett Ellis, PhD, Benjamin Qi, PhD, Christopher Maniglier-Poulet, MS, Justin Andrew Gerding, DHA, Alice Shumate, PhD, Ashley Andujar, MHSA, Jonathan Yoder, MPH, Joseph Laco, MS, Alberto Santana, MS, Tesfaye Bayleyegn, MD, Carolina Luna-Pinto, MPH, Luis Orlando Rodriguez, MS, Joseph Roth, MPH, John Bermingham, MS, Renée H. Funk, DVM, Murad Raheem, BS


On September 6 and 20, 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall as major hurricanes in the US Caribbean Territories of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico with devastating effects. As part of the initial response, a public health team (PHT) was initially deployed as part of the US Department of Health and Human Services Incident Response Coordination Team. As a result of increased demands for additional expertise and resources, a public health branch (PHB) was established for coordinating a broad spectrum of public health response activities in support of the affected territories. This paper describes the conceptual framework for organizing these activities; summarizes some key public health activities and roles; outlines partner support and coordination with key agencies; and defines best practices and areas for improvement in disaster future operations.


public health, emergency management, natural disasters, environmental health, disaster assessments

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