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Your Health Department is Prepared 

When facing an infectious disease outbreak or pandemic, natural or man-made disaster, environmental hazard, extreme weather or other health crisis, the Vermont Department of Health is prepared to respond quickly and effectively. 

We use our Health Operations Center and Incident Command Structure to organize our response. We work with other government agencies, hospitals, health care providers, EMS, first responders and community partners to respond to – and recover from – events and emergencies that threaten the health and safety of Vermonters. 

Responses by the Vermont Department of Health 

Opioids, 2019 - ongoing

The Vermont Department of Health has taken a comprehensive and holistic, inter-divisional approach to address opioid use disorder and prevent overdose deaths. Strategies include increasing public awareness, supporting community-based services and enhancements in Vermont’s health systems. These strategies have been developed and evolved in coordination with programs across the Health Department and with partners across the state. 

Learn more about the department’s work opioid overdose response

COVID-19 Response, 2020 – 2022 

in February 2020, as the threat of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified, the Vermont Department of Health activated its emergency response and opened the Health Operations Center.  
Experts across the department contributed their best efforts to keep Vermonters safe. This included epidemiologists, public health nurses, health care partners, emergency response coordinators, IT programmers, logistics managers, communication professionals and many more. 
Responding to the pandemic called for an ongoing coordinated, statewide and national effort. The Health Operations Center worked in close coordination with the State Emergency Operations Center. 

The Health Operations Center closed in October 2022. 

Learn about COVID-19 and the Health Department's work to keep Vermonters safe 

Mpox (Human Monkeypox Virus) Response, 2022 

The Health Department opened its Health Operations Center in August 2022 to monitor and address multiple cases of mpox, the human version of the monkeypox virus. The virus was reported in many countries that don’t normally report the virus, including the United States and Canada.  

The Health Operations Center closed in October 2022. 
Learn about mpox in Vermont 

Lung Injury Associated with E-cigarette Use, 2019 – 2020 

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration responded to a multi-state outbreak of lung injury associated with of e-cigarette or vaping product use, the Health Department opened its Health Operations Center. The department worked to advise people how to stay safe, what to do if they had symptoms and how to find help quitting vaping. The department also provided guidance to health care professionals.  

Learn more about e-cigarettes and vaping 

Zika Virus, 2016 – 2019 

Zika virus is spread to people mainly by mosquito bites. Zika is generally a mild illness in adults but has caused serious complications in babies of mothers who had the virus while pregnant. The Health Department opened the Health Operations Center to respond to this disease. As understanding of and guidance about preventing the Zika virus emerged, the Health Department worked to protect the health of Vermonters, especially Vermonters traveling to warmer regions. 

Read more about Zika virus   

Lead Testing of Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities,  2019 - 2020 

Lead is a highly toxic metal. Exposure to lead can slow children’s growth, impair their development and learning, and cause behavior problems. Young children absorb lead into their systems more easily than adults do.  

Lead can get into drinking water from plumbing and fixtures. Fixing a lead-in-drinking-water problem is often easy and low cost.  

The Health Department, Agency of Natural Resources and the Agency of Education led a joint project from November 2017 to March 2018 to gather information about lead levels in drinking water of Vermont schools. 

Act 66, passed in 2019, required all Vermont school districts, supervisory unions, independent schools and child care providers to test their drinking and cooking water for lead. If lead is found at or above the action level of 4 parts per billion (ppb), the school or child care provider must immediately take the tap out of service and take corrective action to eliminate or reduce the amount of lead to below the action level. 

The first round of testing was completed from June 2019 through December 2021. During this round, 98% of Vermont schools and child care providers tested over 15,000 taps used for drinking and cooking and took steps to ensure lead levels were below 4 ppb.  

Taps at schools and child care facilities will need to be tested every three years according to the schedule in the rule.  

Read more about testing for lead in drinking water at Vermont schools 

PFOA in Drinking Water, 2016 

Following news in early 2016 of PFOA-contaminated municipal water wells in Hoosick Falls, New York, and concerns about the former Chemfab property in North Bennington, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources/Department of Environmental Conservation sampled five private drinking water wells and the North Bennington municipal water supply for perfluorinated compounds and volatile organic compounds. The five private wells tested showed the presence of perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) at concentrations ranging from 40 to 2,880 parts per trillion. These levels were above the Vermont Department of Health’s drinking water health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion. The Department of Environmental Conservation continued to test residential drinking water wells in North Bennington and Bennington. 

In February 2016, the Health Department alerted area health care providers, and in April began offering PFOA blood testing for affected residents. Results of those tests were announced in July. 

In January 2017, the Health Department presented a summary of the results of its PFOA blood testing and exposure assessment. The study confirmed that drinking water from contaminated wells was the primary source of exposure to PFOA. 

The State of Vermont's investigation and response continues and included environmental testing in other areas of the state.  

Learn more about PFOA in Drinking Water and Vermont’s response 

In 2018, the Health Department provided blood tests for some people who may have been affected by PFOA contamination of drinking water in Bennington and North Bennington. The intent of the blood test was to provide information about exposure to PFOA and potentially help inform discussions with a person’s doctor about their health. 

Learn more about PFOA blood testing  

TFM (Lampricide) Application, 2016 

One of the Health Department's responsibilities is to protect the health of Vermonters by making recommendations to the Department of Environmental Conservation regarding chemicals in drinking water. 

In 2016, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service submitted an application to use TFM in the LaPlatte River. TFM is used to control the population of sea lamprey, a parasitic fish that impacts the health of Lake Champlain’s fisheries. Because the mouth of the LaPlatte River is near an intake for the Champlain Water District, the Health Department began looking into establishing a drinking water level for TFM. 

Before 2017, there was little science on how TFM can affect our bodies. To protect public health, the Health Department recommended that no one drink the water if any TFM was present, which was the lowest level detected or 3 ppb (parts per billion). 

In 2017, the Health Department began working with State partners and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to design a study to answer questions about how TFM in drinking water could affect public health. The study was published in 2019. This study helps understand how TFM can affect our bodies. It also led to the current drinking water health advisory level of 100 ppb for TFM. 

Learn more about the lampricide application 

Chlorpyrifos Contamination of Homes 2013 – 2014 

The Health Department worked with the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets to investigate the misuse of the pesticide chlorpyrifos by AAA Accredited Pest Control of North Clarendon, Vermont in treating residences for bed bugs and other pests. 

All indoor uses of this pesticide have been banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 2001 due to its potential harmful health effects. Exposure to this pesticide can affect the nervous system and can be especially harmful for children and women of childbearing age.  

The Health Department contacted landlords and residences of homes and apartments where chlorpyrifos may have been used by AAA Accredited Pest Control from 2009 to 2013. This type of pesticide can stay in the home for a long time even if the home was treated months or years ago. 

EPA and CDC’s Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) experts joined the state’s response effort in September 2013 to assist with community outreach, testing and recommendations for cleaning and decontamination. Homes or apartments that have chlorpyrifos detected at levels above the EPA’s action level were cleaned and decontaminated by EPA. 

By December 15, 2013, the Health Department had reached more than 400 residents and landlords, and a total of 183 homes had been tested. 

Learn more about Vermont’s response to chlorpyrifos contamination  

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