Health officials train for anthrax outbreak

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – It was a race against time Tuesday, and for actors at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds time was everything.

It was all part of a training scenario put on by the Tippecanoe County Health Department, as required by the Centers for Disease Control. The focus was a massive anthrax outbreak, which sent residents into a panic.

“We have the general public coming through to basically see how fast we could dispense medications to the general public,” said Tippecanoe County Health Department Nurse Supervisor Donella Carter.

In this case, the general public was played by actors and the nurses were played by health department employees and nursing students. This training was about as real as it could get.

“I was a diabetic and apparently I forgot my insulin,” said Arlene Gordon, who was playing the part of a patient. “I hadn’t taken it for a while and so my sugar rose, and then I started having an attack.”

Officials had to be prepared to deal with not only certain types of medical issues, but other complaints that might come from people during a stressful situation.

“In reality, people are going to be waiting a really long time. They’re going to be frustrated. They’re going to be hot. They’re going to be tired. They’re going to be hungry. They’re going to be panicked over the situation that is happening,” said Jessica Jaeger, a medical faculty member at Ivy Tech.

The wait shouldn’t have to be too long, at least that was the hope of the health department, which tried to treat every patient that walked through the door as fast as possible.

“We treated 75 people in 29 minutes and 44 seconds,” said Carter. “We’re pretty proud of ourselves because I think we did a really good job.”

The entire training scenario lasted about an hour, but in that hour participants learned skills they said will stick with them forever.

“It gives me piece of mind to know that we really do think about these things before something bad happens, that we’re not  just waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Jaeger.

The CDC requires counties that receive grants to go through training once every two years.

Health officials said the fairgrounds is just one of five places where mass treatment would be offered in an actual emergency situation.

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