A three-day bioterrorism drill, complete with a low-flying crop-duster spewing pretend Yersinia pestis.
Last spring, Timothy M. Cathey, medical director for the Pittsburg County (OK) Health Department, orchestrated a three-day bioterrorism drill, complete with a low-flying crop-duster spewing pretend Yersinia pestis, pneumonic plague organisms.*
"Our goal was to simulate infection and treatment of 10,000 people while relying only on local resources," says ob/gyn Cathey. If real, the organisms would have stayed in the air for one hour and infected 90 percent of the population. People would be dead within a couple of days. Participants in the drill were medicated with jellybeans simulating ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and doxycycline.
"We set up walk-through and drive-through sites where, by the end of the day, we'd treated 13,623 people," says Cathey. "If a little town in Oklahoma can use local resources and be highly successful, there's no reason others can't." He hopes his team has given incentive to others to run similar bioterrorism drills.
"Also, seeing success like ours may act as a deterrent to the bad guys," says Cathey. "A crisis is what happens when you're attacked; a disaster is what can happen if you're not prepared."
See "Terrorism: Guarding against biological agents," Medical Economics, Oct. 25, 2002
Dorothy Pennachio. A jellybean drill in Oklahoma.