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FOR RELEASE: March 14, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Sooner Spring Bioterrorism Media Advisory #2

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

The simulated bioterrorism exercise, "Sooner Spring," is being conducted on April 12-13 to give state and local community leaders and public health officials an opportunity to review key planning elements for dealing with bioterrorism within the state. The purpose of the exercise to enhance the preparedness of state and local officials to respond to a real bioterrorism threat, said health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Tulsa, McAlester and Lawton will be the host communities to conduct training exercises and demonstrations. The major objectives of the bioterrorism exercise are to help officials determine how best to keep the diseases from spreading, ensure effective medical treatment is available and to keep the public informed. Local community preparations thus far include the following activities:

Tulsa: The Tulsa City-County Health Department is coordinating meetings with the Emergency Operations Center, the Tulsa Emergency Management Agency, EMSA, the Medical Emergency Response Center, the fire and police departments, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to look at various scenarios for a smallpox exercise. Also, the hospitals and a representative from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined the planning process this week. Plans call for a Medical Emergency Response Center to be set up where about 150 volunteers are expected to go through an actual vaccination clinic. TCCHD will meet with local law enforcement and local and state epidemiology personnel to assist in planning for the drill on April 13. TCCHD conducted a practice session on the administration of smallpox vaccine that requires a special needle; procedure that few health care professionals have used or remember.

Lawton: In Lawton, local officials will plan for how they would respond to an outbreak of botulism. Pam Rollins, Comanche County health department administrator, has met with state officials to coordinate with the Emergency Management Advisory Committee arrange for the receipt of supplies delivered by helicopter by the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

McAlester: McAlester's simulated biologic agent will be pneumonic plague. Staff from the Pittsburg County Health Department met with representatives of several special populations who would not be able to come to the point of distribution, but would have medications brought to them in a real event. Examples of these populations include patients in nursing homes, clients of a drug rehabilitation center, persons housed at a juvenile detention center, prisoners in the local jail, and patients of a mental health center. Staff met with the local Chamber of Commerce to get door prizes from local merchants to encourage their participation in the medication portion of the drill.

"The public should remember that these are mock drills and not actual disease occurrences. The bioterrorism exercises will help assist the community in preparing for a potential bioterrorist attack," said Dr. Robert Petrone, bioterrorism coordinator for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

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