This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on public health emergencies, including pandemic influenza (flu), disease outbreaks, and water crises. The World Health Organization defines a disease outbreak as “the occurrence of disease cases in excess of normal expectancy.” An outbreak may last just a few days, or for several years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a flu pandemic occurs when new flu viruses are able to infect people easily and efficiently spread from person to person.
Similar to natural disasters, public health emergencies may cause individuals to feel anxious and show signs of stress, even when they are at low or no risk of being affected by the emergency. Disaster behavioral health professionals and emergency managers should consider the mental health reactions that may occur during a public health emergency while they are preparing their organizations and developing their disaster plans.
This installment includes resources for disaster behavioral health professionals, emergency managers, parents, and survivors to plan and prepare for public health emergencies. There are also resources to help individuals understand the stress that public health emergencies may involve and be aware of common reactions to this type of crisis.