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Officials Hail Bioterror Drill

November 23, 2002

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Emergency workers dispensed make-believe medications Friday to nearly 2,000 volunteers portraying victims of an anthrax attack in the final part of a three-day bioterrorism drill.

U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona and local officials called the exercise, one of the nation’s biggest bioterror drills since the 2001 attacks, a success.

``We have to be prepared for all hazards, for all contingencies,″ Carmona said.

Dr. Elizabeth MacNeill, chief medical officer for the Pima County Health Department, said she was impressed with the results of the six-hour dispensing exercise.

``From what we saw today, I think with the same kind of staffing we could have safely and confidently served 10,000 people,″ she said. ``We’re stronger after this exercise than we were before we started.″

Carmona said recommendations for improvement will be made public later.

According to the drill scenario, the victims had been exposed to anthrax two days earlier at a bioterrorism conference in a nearby hotel.

During the exercise, the pretend victims were directed into a convention hall larger than a football field, where each received a scripted scenario. The volunteers played victims of various ages with different medical histories and physical conditions.

Medical officials evaluated them and determined which medications they should be given.

Volunteer Jody Kosanke, who played several victims during the day, said she thought the exercise would be more realistic if there were ``a few more hysterical people.″

``It’s pretty calm right now, and I don’t think it’s going to be calm if people think they’ve been exposed to anthrax,″ Kosanke said.

The exercise tested how well health and emergency officials are prepared for a biological attack.

Similar exercises will be staged around the country.

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On the Net:

Public Health Emergency Preparedness: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/index.asp http://www.cityoftucson.org/hottopics/bioterrpractice.html%und_off

Tucson Bioterrorism Exercise: (%)