The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is drawing on the Medical Reserve Corps to lessen the spread of hepatitis A throughout the area. The national network of locally organized volunteers prepares for and responds to natural disasters, including public health emergencies.
As of Monday morning, there have been 15 cases of hepatitis A reported in Chattanooga since early May 2018, according to a news release from the health department. Normally, one or no cases a year are reported.
"Thanks to the MRC, we can reduce interruptions to our regular services," said health department emergency response coordinator Sabrina Novak. "The Medical Reserve Corps is one of our most valuable public health tools."
At this stage in the local outbreak, the health department's main effort is to protect as many individuals as possible through vaccination outreach clinics that offer the safe and effective hepatitis A vaccination free to the high-risk groups: recreational drug users, homeless people, and men who have sex with men. Since holding these clinics takes personnel and pulls health department staff away from regular services, the volunteers will fill this gap by assisting with the outreach clinics.
Vaccination outreach clinics have been held at the health department's Homeless Healthcare Clinic, the Hamilton County Jail and Silverdale detention center, locations in the substance abuse treatment community, extended-stay hotels, and homeless shelters around the area.
To join the local Medical Reserve Corps, contact the health department's MRC volunteer coordinator, Maegan Kerr, at 423-209-8068. There is a need for both medical and nonmedical personnel, and all skill sets are welcome.