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Duke Among Sites to Train First Responders On Infectious Disease Safety

Infectious Disease


Sarah Avery
Sarah Avery
919-724-5343 Email

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on Thursday, June 2, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke Health is one of eight sites nationally selected to participate in a program to help train first responders and other workers in properly handling infectious disease emergencies.

The three-year, $9 million program is being launched by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies.

The Duke Infectious Disease Response Training (DIDRT) Consortium will be based out of the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at Duke and funded at $381,080 total cost per year for three years. The DIDRT Consortium will fulfill a core mandate for the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, which was built with funding from the NIH.

The training program establishes Duke as a national center of excellence for infectious disease preparedness training. Duke has partnered with safety training experts at Colorado State University, University of Chicago, University of Louisville and George Mason University to extend the reach of the DIDRT consortium.

The DIDRT consortium will provide infectious disease preparedness training for worker populations with important roles in response to future infectious disease emergencies. Among those who will be trained are first responders, as well as people who work in transportation, custodial services, health care and clinical labs.

“We are incredibly excited about utilizing our biosafety expertise to deliver high-quality, hands-on training in the workplace,” said Scott Alderman, program manager for DIDRT. “Many frontline workers currently receive classroom or online training only. The DIDRT curriculum expands on traditional education techniques and requires all trainees to demonstrate their understanding and proficiency in all critical tasks. Such a training experience not only informs workers, it arms them with the confidence needed to consistently recognize hazards and properly protect themselves from exposure.”  

The NIEHS Worker Training Program will oversee the new Ebola Biosafety and Infectious Disease Response Training, which will benefit health care workers, as well as personnel in waste management, transportation, mortuaries, and other occupations with the potential for infectious disease exposure.

The environmental infection control practices and hazard recognition skills taught will be applicable to any high risk infectious disease that can be easily transmitted person to person and may result in high mortality rates. 

The need for curriculum development and training was identified during a 2014 Institute of Medicine workshop about Ebola virus. In addition to NIH and CDC, other federal partners include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

“A few years ago, very few of us had heard of diseases like Ebola or Zika,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS director. “We need to ensure that we have a workforce ready to contain these and the next infectious disease threats. This new training program will help workers, who do so much to protect others, stay safe when working with patients or people in high risk situations.”

In addition to Duke, other grant recipients include Emory University; Indiana University Bloomington; International Chemical Workers Union Council, Cincinnati, Ohio; Laborers’ International Union of North America Education and Training Fund, Pomfret Center, Conn.; Rutgers School of Public Health; Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization, Pittsburgh; University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The project is supported by the NIEHS (UH4ES027072, UH4ES027093, UH4ES027055, UH4ES027073, UH4ES027069, UH4ES027019, UH4ES027003, UH4ES027070).

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