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FOR RELEASE: March 28, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Sooner Spring Bioterrorism Media Advisory #4

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

The count is on for "Sooner Spring," a simulated bioterrorism exercise scheduled 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. According to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the goal of Sooner Spring is to enhance Oklahoma's response if a real bioterrorism incident were to occur.

Tulsa, McAlester and Lawton are scheduled to host Sooner Spring activities. Each of these communities will conduct training exercises and demonstrations on different bioterrorism threats. These exercises will help officials determine how best to keep the diseases from spreading, ensure effective medical treatment is available and keep the public informed. Local community preparations this week include the following activities:

  • Tulsa: The Tulsa City-County Health Department met with the emergency medical staff from each of the county's six hospitals in order to assist in determining responsibilities in an exercise that will feature identifying and preventing the spread of smallpox. They are also working to set up immunization sites for the 100 to 150 volunteers who will receive mock vaccine during the Sooner Spring exercise.
  • Lawton: The Lawton-Comanche County area will be faced with a mock outbreak of water-borne botulism. Officials from the Comanche County Health Department attended a teleconference this week on how to conduct a "tabletop" exercise. This will give them insights into how to conduct their own drill on April 13. They also met with first responders and representatives from the fire and police departments to add more detail to the existing plan. Arrangements have been made for the Army National Guard to fly in and off- load medical supplies at the Lawton Municipal Airport. This material will subsequently be delivered by the Lawton Fire Department to participating hospitals.
  • McAlester: McAlester's simulated biologic agent will be pneumonic plague. Staff from the Pittsburg County Health Department continued to meet with civic organizations to complete a timeline of events and encourage local participation. Dr. Timothy Cathey, medical director, taped a public service announcement for this same purpose. Staff also worked with the local Wal-Mart pharmacy to determine if they could arrange for the early procurement of antibiotics from private sources, if needed, before state or federal sources of medications are delivered. They found that more than 30,000 doses of medication could be delivered within four hours. Packets of mock medications have been prepared for delivery to the community, as well as fact sheets, which are available in English and Spanish.

Health officials emphasized that the public should remember that these are mock drills and are not actual disease occurrences.

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