Health Dept. ?practices? for anthrax incident during drill


Zach Carey, a member of the freshman physical education class at Hillsboro High School, receives his bag of ?medications? from Sarah Gill of the Marion County Health Department at the conclusion of his participation in last week?s anthrax disaster drill.

The prospect of anthrax exposure at a large public gathering in Kansas is unthinkable to most of the public.

Last week, the Marion County Health Department not only thought about it, but practiced its response if ever such a scenario would occur.

The exercise culminated last Thursday in the Hillsboro Middle School gym, where more than 300 ?victims? received simulated medication in a two-hour period.

?Our scenario was a train derailment near a large public function, which caused exposure to anthrax,? said Diedre Serene, county health department director.

The exercise actually started March 20, when the department received the scenario.

?With that we had to put our plan in action, so March 23 we requested our stockpile of medications from the state,? Serene said. ?This, in itself, has a formal procedure that is followed.?

On Wednesday, the department received its order of simulated medications, then on Thursday, set up a dispensing site in the HMS gym, using students in a freshman physical education class?plus various available other students coming through the gym?as medication recipients.

With county staff posted at several tables to record information, students answered questions about medical allergies and other pertinent issues, then were given the medications?candy, in this case?they would require.

During the two-hour drill, 96 people went through the process, receiving ?medications? for 306 people, which included their family members.

The drill was helpful for her staff, but also had some limitations compared to an actual anthrax event, Serene said.

?In an actual situation, we would be set up in the Hillsboro High School commons,? she said. ?All the needed information regarding the dispensing (of medication)?such as date, time, etc.?could be found on the local TV stations, and the Wichita stations, area radio stations and our county Web site.

?We will be encouraging households to only send one person per household to pick up the medications for the whole family,? she added. ?It is also important that only well individuals come to the site. We will not hand out medications to people who are ill.?

Serene said she was grateful for assistance her department received from the Marion County Clerk?s office, the Emergency Communications manager, the Hillsboro Police Department and the HHS maintenance staff, principal, counselor and freshman PE class.

Wendy?s in Hillsboro donated coupons for a free breakfast combo to distribute to members of the PE class for participating.

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