A. Peña-Fernández1, M.A. Peña2, M.C. Lobo-Bedmar3

1De Montfort University, School of Allied Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Universidad de Alcalá, Departamento de Ciencias Biomédicas (SPAIN)
3IMIDRA, Departamento de Investigación Agroambiental (SPAIN)
Environmental recovery in the aftermath of a biological incident is one of the key areas to consider when tailoring a response to protect human health and minimise the spread of the biological agent(s) involved. However, recent studies have highlighted general national and international emergency weaknesses including a lack of preparedness in health care professionals and emergency responders to tackle these events. We undertook a web-based, non-systematic search for biological response training in human health undergraduate programmes in the UK, by using the Google™ search engine. To the best of our knowledge, there are no undergraduate courses in the UK that directly address this topic. Only a few postgraduate programmes present some information about responding to biological incidents but they do not cover the different phases of a biological incident response, which are: preparedness and situation assessment; exposure assessment; acute health effects; long term health effects; and recovery phase. In order to develop appropriate training, academics from De Montfort University (DMU, Leicester, UK) and the University of Alcalá (Spain) in collaboration with first responders (biomedical scientists) to the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, have developed specific training for undergraduate human health degree students to respond to biological incidents. We have created basic competences to develop this training and distributed them into six domains following the recommendations of the European Commission for medical responders to CBRN emergencies: identification of the risk and risk analysis; toxicological effect of biological agents; planning and organisation of an intervention programme; environmental planning; communication and information management; safety and personal protective equipment; societal and ethical reflections. Following the basic competences created, we developed different training sessions with two components, theoretical (lectures and seminars) and practical (research-led workshop), to cover each of the different phases of an appropriate response to any biological incident. The specific training that covers the recovery phase has been delivered to postgraduate students from the MSc programme in Advanced Biomedical Science at DMU since 2016/17 due to the more manageable student number, time available to deliver the training and greater background knowledge of the class. The analysis of the feedback provided by the first cohort of students indicated high levels of engagement and interest in this training session. We performed some minor modifications following the students’ feedback and delivered it this academic course 2017/18 (n=9) to gain more information about its effectiveness in facilitating the specific basic competences covered in this training including the resources used to tailor a recovery response to the case scenario proposed (an outbreak due to Cyclospora spp.) such as the UK Recovery Handbook for Biological Incidents (UKRHBI; PHE, 2015). All students were satisfied with this training and all highlighted that the tools used aided their learning about environmental recovery (33.3% agreed; 66.7% strongly agreed). All participants indicated that the UKRHBI was an appropriate resource for tailoring a recovery response. Finally, students indicated that they would have liked to have more time to develop a response to the case scenario proposed (the workshop was 2 hours long).