Public Health Events

​From the regular seasonal flu, to a potential avian flu pandemic, the West Nile Virus to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), health concerns can create panic and cause loss of life. MDEM works in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control to help residents prepare for public health events.

Coronavirus / COVID-19

COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease) is a new respiratory illness that spreads from person to person causing flu-like symptoms. Although everyone is at risk, it mainly spreads between individuals who are within 6 feet of each other. This is a new virus that has spread to countries around the world and it is recommended to avoid close contact with others, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face.

Avian / Influenza

Flu pandemics are relatively rare (there were only three in the 20th century) but the recent outbreaks of avian influenza among poultry in Asia and Europe, and associated human cases, heighten the need for pandemic planning now.

Biological Events

A biological event would most likely be caused by terrorist activity, but an accidental release of a biological agent is possible. A number of biological agents also can affect food safety.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness and was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained.

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It has been found in humans, birds, and other animals, typically in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. In 1999, WNV was detected in the United States for the first time, and since then it has spread across the U.S.

Other Public Health Events

Several other public health diseases or events can affect humans and/or animals, including the current mumps outbreak in the Midwest, mad cow disease and others.

Additional Resources

Visit the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene 'Be Prepared' page for more information on how to prepare for and respond to a variety of emergencies.