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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Situation Report: Japanese Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami

April 7, 2011:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services remains committed to supporting public health and medical emergency requests from the government of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant emergency.

To date, this support has included deploying five HHS subject matter experts to provide technical assistance to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan. This expertise was fundamental in Embassy decisions about the distribution of potassium iodide (KI) to American citizens in Japan. HHS subject matter experts also helped create public materials on new findings and public health recommendations for American citizens in Japan. This week Embassy staff and HHS subject matter experts conducted a series of radiation and health presentations to various American stakeholder groups in Japan to address public health concerns. The HHS subject matter experts will be returning to the United States within the next few days as the need for their support decreases.

While harmful levels of radiation have not and are not expected to reach the United States including Pacific states and territories, the standard monitoring in some states has recorded radiation levels slightly above normal. To support evolving state and territory needs, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is coordinating domestic preparedness efforts including communication plans among the HHS agencies and with other Departments and state and territory health agencies. ASPR sponsors bi-weekly teleconferences with state health departments and radiation preparedness directors to ensure they have the most up-to-date information and have an opportunity to ask questions of subject matter experts from across the U.S. government including CDC, EPA, FDA, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. ASPR continues to communicate with the health authorities in Japan.

FDA continues to monitor food and medical products imported from Japan to ensure food and product safety and has increased food screening for products received from Japan on the Marianas Islands. FDA is publishing import alerts on milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables from Japan. Updated information, including testing methodology, is posted on the FDA website. FDA is also conducting calls to coordinate with cooperative radiological labs.

In addition, FDA has cautioned consumers to be wary of internet sites and other retail outlets promoting products making false claims to prevent or treat effects of radiation or products that are not FDA-approved. The latest information from FDA is available on their Radiation Safety page. 

EPA has stepped up monitoring of precipitation, air, milk, and drinking water, and has been releasing radiation measures for each. The latest measures are available on the EPA website. CDC has been providing corresponding health information to state and local authorities as well as the healthcare community.

CDC developed a protocol for U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening of passengers at airports, as well as health alert notices, traveler’s advisories, and fact sheets for passengers looking for information and/or medical care upon arrival in the United States from Japan. CDC shared the protocol, health alert notices and fact sheets with state health officials. The health alerts and travelers advisories have included the following:

  • 2011 Earthquake, Tsunami, and Radiation Release in Japan
  • 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan: Health Information for Expatriates and Students Living in Japan
  • 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan: Health Information for Humanitarian Aid Workers
  • Potassium Iodide (KI): Frequently Asked Questions.
  • FAQs About Iodine-131 Found in Surface Water
  • FAQs About Iodine-131 Found in Milk

The documents are posted on CDC’s Radiation Emergencies web site (part of CDC’s Emergency Preparedness and Response web site). This web site and the information it contains have been promoted via an ongoing communication plan that includes numerous CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response social media channels, such as badges, widgets, @CDCemergency Twitter feed, mobile website, RSS, content syndication, email updates, eCards, and CDC Facebook page.  Select documents have been translated into Japanese and/or Spanish to increase communication bandwidth across cultures.

CDC also sponsored a conference call with clinicians and partner organizations to discuss interim guidance for clinicians caring for travelers. . Radiation training and information resources have also been provided to clinicians via weekly email updates and announcements.   In addition, CDC provided information for poison control call centers around the U.S. to assist in responding to calls from members of the public concerned about radiation. CDC recommends that people in the United States do not take KI or iodine supplements in response to the nuclear power plant situation in Japan. People should only take KI on the advice of their doctors, emergency management officials, or public health officials.

The Secretary’s Operations Center continues to coordinate the HHS response and requests for information regarding health impacts of radiation. Information about HHS response activities is available on the PHE.gov Japan Earthquake page.

March 28, 2011: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a strong readiness posture to provide any requested public health and medical support to the government of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant emergency. HHS has deployed four subject matter experts with a fifth deploying tomorrow to provide technical assistance to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan.

While harmful levels of radiation have not and are not expected to reach the United States including Pacific states and territories, monitoring in some states has detected very low concentrations of radiation levels in air and rain water likely associated with the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. To support state and territory needs at this time, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response continues to coordinate situational awareness, information sharing and materials for the public among the HHS agencies and with other Departments and state and territory health agencies. ASPR also continues to communicate with the health authorities in Japan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is monitoring food and medical products, and has increased screening for food products imported from Japan to ensure food and product safety. The FDA has issued an import alert on milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables from the four affected prefectures in Japan. Updated information, including testing methodology, is posted on the FDA website. FDA is also conducting calls to coordinate with cooperative radiological labs. In addition, FDA has cautioned consumers to be wary of internet sites and other retail outlets promoting products making false claims to prevent or treat effects of radiation or products that are not FDA-approved. The latest information from FDA is now available online.

CDC developed a protocol for U.S. Customs and Border Protection screening of passengers at airports, as well as health alert notices, travelers advisories, and fact sheets for passengers looking for information and/or medical care upon arrival in the United States from Japan.

The health alerts and travelers advisories have included the following:
  • 2011 Earthquake, Tsunami, and Radiation Release in Japan
  • 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan: Health Information for Expatriates and Students Living in Japan
  • 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan: Health Information for Humanitarian Aid Workers
  • Potassium Iodide (KI): Frequently Asked Questions
The documents are posted on the CDC Traveler's Health page.

The Secretary’s Operations Center continues to coordinate the HHS response and requests for information regarding health impacts of radiation. Visit the  HHS Japanese Tsunami response page for more information on HHS response activities. 

March 21, 2011:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stands ready to provide any requested public health and medical support to the government of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant emergency. HHS has deployed three subject matter experts to provide technical assistance to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan.
 
While harmful levels of radiation are not expected to reach the United States including Pacific states and territories, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is coordinating domestic preparedness efforts among the HHS agencies and with other Departments as well as communicating with the health authorities in Japan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is monitoring food and medical products imported from Japan to ensure food and product safety. The FDA is alerting consumers to be wary of internet sites and other retail outlets promoting products making false claims to prevent or treat effects of radiation or products that are not FDA-approved. Learn More >>

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed health alerts and travelers advisory for people travel to and from Japan. These include the following:

In addition, CDC provided information for poison control call centers around the U.S. to assist in responding to calls from members of the public concerned about radiation. At this time, CDC does not recommend that people in the United States take potassium iodide (KI) or iodine supplements in response to the nuclear power plant situation in Japan. People should only take KI on the advice of their doctors, emergency management officials, or public health officials.

The Secretary’s Operations Center continues to coordinate the HHS response and requests for information regarding health impacts of radiation. Learn More about HHS Response Activities >>

As of March 17, 2011:  As of March 17, 2011: Deputy Secretary Poneman joined U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczkon to provide a status update on the situation in Japan during the daily White House Press Briefing.  (Department of Energy).  View the full report >>



As of March 16, 2011:
Secretary Chu provided an update on the Energy's role in the process during a Congressional hearing:

"Officials from the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and other agencies have maintained close contact with Japanese officials and have provided the Japanese government with expertise in a variety of areas.

As part of that effort, the Department of Energy has sent two experts to Japan to provide advice and technical assistance.

We are positioning Consequence Management Response Teams at U.S. Consulates and military installations in Japan. These teams have the skills, expertise and equipment to help assess, survey, monitor and sample areas. They include smaller groups that could be sent out to gather technical information in the area.

We have sent our Aerial Measuring System capability, including detectors and analytical equipment used to provide assessments of contamination on the ground.

In total, the DOE team includes 39 people with more than 17,000 pounds of equipment.
The Department is also monitoring activities through the DOE Nuclear Incident Team and is employing assets at its National Laboratories to provide ongoing predictive atmospheric modeling capabilities based on a variety of scenarios.

The American people should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly. Information is still coming in about the events unfolding in Japan, but the Administration is committed to learning from Japan's experience as we work to continue to strengthen America's nuclear industry.

Safety remains at the forefront of our effort to responsibly develop America's energy resources, and we will continue to incorporate best practices and lessons learned into that process."

Deputy Secretary Poneman participated in a special press briefing with Under Secretary for Management at the State Department Pat Kennedy regarding the situation in Japan. You can listen to the full briefing and review the transcript courtesy of State.gov. (Department of Energy).  View the full report >>

March 16, 2011:  USAID is coordinating the overall U.S. government efforts in support of the Japanese government’s response to the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami that hit Friday. The United States has sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Tokyo that includes specialists with nuclear expertise from the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services as well the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Two Urban Search and Rescue Teams (LA County and Fairfax County teams) which total 144 members plus 12 search and rescue canines and up to 45 metric tons of rescue equipment are conducting urban search and rescue operations as a part of the international search and rescue response. The Department of Defense has the USS Reagan on station off the coast of Japan and the USS Essex en route. The air facility in Misawa is being used as a forward operating base. The American Red Cross has committed an initial $10 million to the Japanese Red Cross to assist its ongoing efforts to provide medical care and relief assistance following the earthquake and tsunami and is providing an advisor to a high-level support group is led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.The NRC has released information stating that Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.

FEMA has activated the National Incident Management Assistance Team-East (IMAT-East) to coordinate transportation support to the U.S. EPA in the deployment of radiation monitors to Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.  Monitors should arrive in Hawaii and Alaska today, March 16, and Guam, March 17.

Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams from Fairfax County, Virginia (VA-TF1) and Los Angeles County, California (CA-TF2) deployed to Japan on March 12 and are participating with other international search and rescue teams conducting operations in areas affected by the earthquake ad tsunami. The two U.S. teams have joined with UK and China teams conducting grid searches in Ofunato, Japan, approximately 118 miles north-northeast of the Fukushima No. 1 reactor site and about 120 miles from the Fukushima No. 2 reactor site. (National Situation Update - FEMA)

March 13, 2011: 5:00 PM: To be prepared for requests for public health and medical assistance from the earthquake and tsunami, HHS deployed a Disaster Medical Assistance Team, an advanced logistics team, and a command and control team to Travis Air Force Base in California, along with a cache of medical equipment and supplies. From the Air Force base, the teams and cache could be deployed quickly to wherever they were needed to provide emergency medical care, staff medical shelters, augment community hospital staff, provide veterinary care, or conduct disaster mortuary operations at the request of states or territories in the region. The teams returned home when the danger passed in Hawaii and along the West Coast of the United States and FEMA stood down precautionary efforts in the region. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stands ready to provide public health and medical support to the government of Japan, although none has been requested at this time. ASPR, FDA, and CDC are coordinating with the Dept of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and West Coast states on public messaging to address concerns about any release of radiation from damaged nuclear power plants in Japan reaching the United States. Although no public health risks are expected in the U.S., Washington State and Oregon are monitoring air and water as a precaution.

March 11, 2011:  5:00 PM:  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is deploying a Disaster Medical Assistance Team of more than 35 healthcare professionals, an advanced logistics team, and a command and control team to the U.S. west coast.  Caches of medical equipment and supplies have also been positioned to be sent wherever they are needed. Additional HHS teams are on alert, ready to deploy to provide emergency medical care, staff medical shelters, augment community hospital staff, provide veterinary care, or conduct disaster mortuary operations.

March 11, 2011:  11:21 AM:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is prepared to provide with public health and medical support, the state of Hawaii, and states along the West Coast and the government of Japan should assistance be needed in the aftermath of today’s earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunami.

HHS is deploying a Disaster Medical Assistance Team of more than 35 healthcare professionals, advanced logistics team, and a command and control team, called an Incident Response Coordination Team, to Travis Air Force Base in California, as well as caches of medical equipment and supplies. From the Air Force base, the teams and equipment can deploy quickly wherever they are needed if requested by states or territories in the region or by the government of Japan. 

Additional HHS teams are on alert, ready to deploy if needed to provide emergency medical care, staff medical shelters, augment community hospital staff, and provide veterinary care.

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  • This page last reviewed: April 12, 2011