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Hospitals participate in drill

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Area residents can rest assured in knowing that local hospitals are ready in the face of danger.

Oct. 9, 86 hospitals statewide, including Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home and White River Medical Center in Batesville, participated in a drill that exercised how the facilities would respond in the face of a terrorist attack involving anthrax. "Whether it's anthrax or Avian Influenza, the threat to the public is one that we must be prepared to meet with well planned action," said BRMC Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Gary Hoornstra.

The drill focused on what medical facilities would do in the immediate hours and days following such an attack by demonstrating that necessary medications could be safely transported. The Arkansas National Guard delivered surplus Amoxicillin during the drill to regional distribution centers for pickup by participating hospitals, according to press releases.

"The opportunity to practice our response in a simulated exercise could possibly make the difference between life and death if events like these were to occur in Arkansas," said White River Medical Center CEO/Administrator Gary Bebow.

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by spore-forming bacteria that is most commonly found in wild and some domesticated animals in agricultural regions in underdeveloped countries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anthrax is common in South and Central America, Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Though it is uncommon, anthrax has occurred in the United States.

The disease is contracted by humans when anthrax enters the skin when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather or other items that have come in contact with infected animals or intestinally by eating contaminated meat. When infected in this manner, individuals can die, but death is rare with appropriate treatment, according to the CDC.

The most deadly form of anthrax contraction is inhaling anthrax spores. Most bioterrorist attacks involving anthrax take advantage of this form of contamination. Anthrax inhalation is 90-100 percent fatal, said the CDC Web site.

In 2001, just one week following 9-11, a series of anthrax attacks occurred in the United States over several weeks.

Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, including then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and NBC newsman Tom Brokaw.

Five people died and 17 were infected in this currently unsolved bioterrorist attack.



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