Public health districts in Idaho drill for emergency anthrax attack

LEWISTON, ID - Where would you go and who would be ready to dispense timely medication if there was an anthrax attack in Lewiston.

"We're hoping something like this never happens but we're hopefully ready for it if it does," said N. Central Public Health Information Officer Tara Biesecker.

Which is why The Department of Health And Welfare and the seven Public Health Districts throughout Idaho have been planning this event for two years.

"The possibility of an anthrax release throughout the State of Idaho," said Biesecker.

Complete preparedness for an anthrax catastrophe is hard to achieve, so a full scale event with realistic elements is crucial.

"If we can prophylax within 24 hours for anthrax, then we can do it for anything," said N. Central Public Health Planner Kayla Muehrle.

And that's because anthrax is the most potent threat agent, moves the quickest, and there is a 48-hour time restriction. Twelve hours of which will be used to send the drug and only 36 hours will remain to dispense it.

"In Nez Perce County there's roughly 39,000 people, 39,000 people in 36 hours is just over a thousand people an hour," said Moehrle.

They'll look at how fast participants go through the multi-step drill. The first two requirements are filling out paperwork regarding medical history.

The final step is picking up medications that would counter the affect of anthrax if this were a real attack.

"Be aware of how they're doing, organized and set up and how they execute there responsibilities," said participant Jerry Zumalt.

This is the first full scale event in more than three years.

Public health officials will spend the following weeks looking at the results of this exercise, and make the necessary improvements on emergency preparedness.