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Release: Jan. 28, 2003

UI Hospitals And Clinics Smallpox Response Planning Continues

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics today announced plans to seek volunteers among its staff with special skills to participate in a UI Hospitals and Clinics Health Care Smallpox Response Team.

The team will be one of 14 based at Iowa hospitals participating in phase 1 of the Iowa Department of Public Health's Pre-Event Smallpox Immunization Plan. The IDPH Plan is a blueprint for managing and reducing the adverse impact of a bioterrorism incident involving smallpox in Iowa.

"As the state's comprehensive tertiary health care center, UI Hospitals and Clinics is qualified by the expertise of its faculty and staff and its unique resources to participate in this important public health effort. Part of our mission is to care for all Iowans, regardless of their ability to pay, and to protect the health of our citizens," said Charles Helms, M.D., chief of staff at the medical center.

Helms and a working group of physicians, nurses, and other specialists are building the team. The planning group is seeking volunteers with the necessary skills and talents who will care for patients with smallpox during the first two weeks following a potential outbreak. To assure the safety of the team in caring for smallpox patients, team members will be asked to receive smallpox vaccine when they formally agree to volunteer. Their vaccination sites will be carefully followed.

"These volunteers will be the first to care for Iowans with smallpox intensively should the disease make its way here," Helms explained. "In order to protect those workers, they need to be immunized. We are taking every step to ensure that the immunization process is as safe as possible."

Working group members will be contacting those health care workers with the necessary skills and talents throughout the next several weeks. Those health care workers interested in volunteering will receive education material and be able to ask questions about the issues associated with smallpox.

Participation in the smallpox response team will be voluntary. Potential members of the team will receive educational information about the risks associated with the smallpox vaccine. Staff members who do not wish to participate may decline without penalty.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at