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Managing Emerging Diseases

Increasingly, emergency medical services are called upon to address emerging infectious diseases. For example, EMS clinicians consistently met the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic starting when the virus first appeared in the U.S. in early 2020. Then in 2022, EMS clinicians began transporting patients with suspicion of mpox. It is critical for EMS clinicians to have the resources they need to recognize new or reemerging infectious diseases.

Whether responding to 911 calls or providing interfacility transfers for COVID-19 patients, adapting to keep themselves and the public safe, or even taking on new roles—such as administering vaccines and tests—the EMS workforce has proven itself invaluable to communities and the nation during public health emergencies.

Current Emerging Disease Information

The National Emerging Special Pathogens Training and Education Center (NETEC) is providing updates about the recently evolving situations regarding the spread of mpox and Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

Mpox, a rare but potentially serious viral disease, has emerged in countries in which it is not normally found, including the United States. To ensure early detection and isolation of the infected, EMS/prehospital and hospital clinicians should be on alert for signs of the disease.

NETEC is also following the spread of EVD, a highly contagious and serious infectious disease, in Uganda. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated guidance for EMS systems and 911 emergency communications centers/public safety answering points (ECCs/PSAPs) to help manage patients under investigation (PUI) for EVD in the United States.

Using Data to Address Challenges

Soon after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHTSA Office of EMS was asked to lead the EMS/Prehospital Team as part of the Healthcare Resilience Working Group created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This group included representatives from a number of Federal agencies as well as stakeholders from the EMS and 911 communities. It served to listen to the concerns and needs of EMS and 911 organizations around the country and to coordinate Federal efforts to address those needs.

In addition to creating its own resources to help EMS organizations and clinicians safely respond to COVID, the team compiled resources from numerous Federal entities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NHTSA Office of EMS, and others. Learn more about using EMS data, or view COVID-19 resources.

Last Updated: 10/18/2023