Mauricio Julian Cuellar, Jim Wells County Correspondent

With the recent unexplained deaths of dozens of birds near the Texas Capitol in Austin on Monday, and the still inexplicable smell that floated that same day around New York City and neighboring communities in New Jersey, fear of biological terrorism is real in the United States.

Marisella Munoz, the regional SNS coordinator for Public Health Preparedness with the Texas Department of State Health Services made a presentation regarding bioterrorist threats to the Jim Wells County Commissioner's Court on Monday, with representatives of several other departments present, including the Alice Fire Department, Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department, and Orange Grove Superintendent Earl Luce.

Munoz said diseases such as anthrax, pneumonic plague, smallpox, measles and pandemic influenza are always a concern for state health officials. Everyone from the local level such as cities and counties, needed to do their part, she said, to prepare themselves for a possible outbreak, and devise a plan of action to address these health threats should they arise.

"The State health department does not have enough workers to dispense medication across the state, so it will be up to the counties to provide local volunteers willing to prepare for such an event. The places of dispensing (POD's) will be staffed by local volunteers to serve citizens in their area. So Alice will have a POD of Alice volunteers, and Ben Bolt will have their own POD, and Orange Grove and so on," Munoz said.

The actual POD sites have not been named yet, but schools were mentioned as a suitable location, due to the large set up area, the availability of wings to isolate patients if necessary, and classrooms that could be used to educate people about the diseases they could be facing or the medication they will be taking.

A school also provides a location with a cafeteria for feeding POD volunteers, and room to set up sleeping arrangements, in case the POD needs to be up and running for several days. Most schools also have internet access, which would allow POD supervisors to stay in contact with personnel from the Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control.

Munoz said that April, the county will have to have a pre-site plan in place, and that she would be responsible to go around to area schools and checklist each campus to be used as a POD, to make sure they have the basic necessities available to be used as a POD site.

The county said that in the event of an outbreak, medications will be flown in to Corpus Christi, and will be housed there, since there is no warehouse large enough in JWC to meet the storage needs. The drugs would then be trucked in to the POD sites, to serve the citizens in their individual communities. The county as well as local communities with JWC will be calling for volunteers in the coming weeks to help with preparation efforts.

JWC Commissioners also approved a resolution Monday morning concerning a grant application to the Office of the Attorney General, Crime Victim Services Division. The grant award was $32,000, which will go to the County Attorney's crime victim's clerk, who assists the victims in crime by helping them with recovery, directing them to services that are available for those going through traumatic experiences, and helping with expenses.

that might be accruedbecause of being a victim of crime.

The court also approved a data processing service agreement with Indigent Healthcare Solutions, Inc., which provides database services for more than 90 counties across the state. The service will assist JWC in preserving, storing, processing, retrieving and organizing data pertaining to the JWC Indigent program. The program previously worked with a DOS based data storage program, but suffered a system crash in Nov. 2006. They were able to save some data, and rebuilt their database.

It is now updated using Windows as base as opposed to the older DOS, County Judge Arnoldo Saenz said of the change in programs.