DHHR Moves from Response to Recovery Following Chemical Leak

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health says they have shifted their efforts from response to recovery after the January 9 chemical spill.

The spill of MCHM from Freedom Industries left 300,000 residents in nine West Virginia counties without drinking water.

“Our goal from day one has been to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the public in our communities,” said Dr. Letitia Tierney, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “We are moving forward with the recovery effort beginning to focus on community assessments.”

Tierney has sent letters to more than 800 doctors across the nine counties who may have treated patients affected by the spill. The letter asks the physicians to report all symptomatic patients with exposure to water contaminated by MCHM through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

“Emergency department surveillance and working with the West Virginia Poison Center helped us determine immediate critical health concerns,” Tierney said. “Now that we have moved into the recovery phase, we’re reaching out to healthcare providers to obtain data on any patient that may have been exposed to the contaminated water. Any and all data that these healthcare providers believe that could be connected to the chemical spill, we welcome.”

Tierney says they are also waiting on results from CDC's chart review of patients who visited the emergency department with concerns after the spill. That information will be made available next month.

“It’s important to remember that this incident has been unprecedented for West Virginia and the country,” Tierney added. “We have been moving forward in a careful, thoughtful and deliberative manner working closely with the CDC, health departments and medical providers.”

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