New York City may be affected by naturally occurring disease outbreaks. Additionally, biological agents, such as bacteria or viruses, or toxins derived from plants or animals, can cause injury or death.
A pandemic occurs over a wide geographic area and affects a large segment of the population. An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak that results from the emergence of a new influenza virus that can cause serious illness in humans and spreads easily from person to person.
A biological emergency involves the exposure to bacteria and viruses that can cause a serious illness. Usually, these biological agents must be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or eaten to make you sick.
New York City regularly monitors and responds to disease outbreaks and biological events. The City's Department of Health & Mental Hygiene has a state-of-the-art, 24/7 system for monitoring disease patterns. The "syndromic surveillance" system involves routinely tracking emergency room visits, ambulance runs and pharmacy sales to provide an early warning signal of a possible outbreak. It is one of the first in the nation and is a model for the rest of the country.
In the event of a health emergency (e.g., emerging infectious disease or bioterrorist attack), the City may open Points of Dispensing (PODs), which are temporary locations to distribute life-saving medical countermeasures, such as antibiotics or vaccines. If PODs are activated, you may locate the one closest to you by listening to local media, calling 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115), visiting 311 online or NYC.gov.
In response to COVID-19, the City has opened testing sites throughout the five boroughs. Learn more about the testing sites and find a location near you.
The City uses several forms of media to alert the public in an emergency, including Notify NYC, the City of New York's official emergency communications program.