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FOR RELEASE: March 8, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Sooner Spring Bioterrorism Exercise Slated April 13

Note to Editors: This is the first of a series of weekly media advisories on Sooner Spring.

On April 12-13, Oklahoma will conduct several simulated bioterrorism events as part of an overall exercise to enhance the preparedness of state and local officials to respond in the event of a real bioterrorism threat.

Called "Sooner Spring," the bioterrorism exercise will give state and local community leaders and public health officials an opportunity to review key planning elements for dealing with bioterrorism within the state.

Tulsa, McAlester and Lawton will be the host communities to conduct training exercises and demonstrations. The exercises will focus on the organizational collaborations necessary to coordinate basic public health and medical responses to any disaster or act of terrorism.

Of utmost concern to local health and city officials is making sure the public understands these exercises are mock drills and not actual disease occurrences. Just as city officials test storm sirens to make sure their city can alert citizens in case of inclement weather, these bioterrorism exercises will help make sure the community is prepared for a potential bioterrorist attack.

In Tulsa, health care officials will address some of the procedures that would be necessary to follow should smallpox be reported in the community. As part of this effort, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send a team of advisors to Oklahoma to provide training for health care providers in identifying and managing smallpox. In addition, the health department will conduct a mock vaccination clinic.

In McAlester, the simulated biologic agent will be pneumonic plague. Local officials are working now to engage citizens in an all-out community effort to test how to deliver medications to a population that may have been exposed to the agent. The exercise will include receiving state and federal medical supplies transported to the community with the support of the Army National Guard and dispensing imitation antibiotics to the population.

In Lawton, local and state public health officials will work through a mock outbreak of botulism. Current plans include testing emergency communications, providing a tabletop exercise for local health officials on botulism, and developing a phone tree to contact local hospital infection control links.

State and local health officials stress that the planning efforts now underway to carry out these exercises will be of utmost benefit as they determine what works and what can be improved. Identifying the key players in the community and their functions in the event of a terrorist attack, as well as learning how to collaborate with them to perform effectively, will help officials determine how best to keep the diseases from spreading, ensure effective medical treatment and inform the public.

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