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Topic Overview

    Public health threats are events or disasters that can affect you and your community. Examples of public health threats are:

    • Natural disasters.
    • Disease outbreaks.
    • Accidents involving hazardous substances.
    • Terrorist attacks.

    Public health threats can affect air quality, cause shortages of safe water and food, and cut off electricity, gas, telephone, and other services. You and your family members may be separated.

    Disasters are hard to predict and usually are out of your control. But you can take steps to help keep yourself and your family safe.

    Preparing for disaster

    Here are some things you can do to help prepare for a disaster:

    • Learn about specific health threats and what you can do to reduce the risk to your health and safety. This topic helps you understand how health hazards can spread through a community and how you can limit your exposure to them.
    • Make an emergency plan and gather the supplies you may need during an emergency. This topic includes tips on making an emergency plan and a supplies kit.
    • Learn basic first aid skills such as CPR. And know where to find first aid information in case of injuries. For example, you can keep a first aid book in your emergency supplies kit.
    • Always look to local authorities and health experts for specific, up-to-date information for your area. Follow their advice, even if it differs from this topic.

    Following these steps can help you be better prepared for any type of public health threat.

    Health threats in your community

    There are many things in our environment that can be harmful. Chemicals, fumes, viruses, bacteria, and low-level radiation are just a few of them. When these substances are released in large quantities or get out of control, they can become urgent public health threats. Guidelines for how to prepare for and avoid a problem often depend on how the substance is spread.

    In general, a health threat may spread through a community:

    • In the air.
    • In the water supply or food.
    • From human to human.
    • From animal or insect to human.

    Call your local health department for information about health threats in your area.

      This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

      WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

      Last Updated: January 27, 2014
      This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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