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Anthrax scare at Senior Citizens Center

— The anthrax came in the mail, immediately exposing several senior citizens.

The community flooded the Clinton County Health Department’s medication site, where staff were expected to process at least 50 individuals every 15 minutes.

The drill went better than expected.

“At its peak, Clinton County Health Department’s recent Medical Counter Measure drill processed ‘victims’ at a rate of 71 per 15 minutes,” said Vicki Driscoll of the Clinton County Health Department.

Held at the Clinton County Senior Citizens Council in Plattsburgh, the exercise filled an annual requirement of the New York State Health Department as part of emergency preparedness.

“We have to maintain our skills as a health department,” Driscoll said. “We must make sure our skills are up to date and we are effective and efficient.”

The Clinton County Health Department called on volunteers for the drill.

The primary focus of the drill was to test the ability of Health Department staff to process a minimum of 50 people every 15 minutes to receive medication in an extreme emergency situation.

The second aim was to have all participants preregister electronically. No on-site registration was allowed as a test of the Clinical Data Management System.

The drill required that a target group in the community be identified to add realism to the event. The premise was that a number of seniors were exposed to anthrax through a mail-distribution situation. Most participants were in that target group.

By choosing anthrax exposure, the scenario provided the need for an offsite full functional response system to be set up to allow for dispensing of appropriate medication to prevent illness or death.

“There has been an anthrax exposure scare, we want to make sure the community gets its medication and everyone is safe,” Driscoll said.

The Clinical Data Management System actually alerted staff at 8:30 a.m. that day through an automated phone message, which provided them with specific instructions.

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