Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Case of a True Emergency, You Will Not Receive Candy; Drill Tests Pierce County's Ability to Respond in an Anthrax Threat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In Case of a True Emergency, You Will Not Receive Candy; Drill Tests Pierce County's Ability to Respond in an Anthrax Threat

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY DICKSON

BLACKSHEAR - The Pierce County Health Department passed a test Tuesday of its ability to rapidly dispense large amounts of drugs in the event of an epidemic or other emergency.

Not that there weren't some gripers and complainers in the two-hour drill. But that was all part of the plan.

"I am pregnant," Miriam Love said from the back of a van. "I've been throwing up all morning. Y'all got to get me some help."

Then Love's smile widened and she said, "I want M&M's instead of Skittles."

Love was among dozens playing the roles people lined up for drugs to keep them from contracting anthrax after some residents were "exposed" to it in a training scenario Tuesday, said Southeast Health District spokesman Roger Naylor.

Skittles in orange pill bottles served as doxycycline, the drug used for anthrax, and M&M's were given as ciprofloxacin, the drug taken by those allergic to doxycycline, also called "doxy."

The drugs were dispensed in a drive-through method, with vehicles forming two lines and the occupants submitting head-of-household forms that allowed them to get enough drugs for an entire family. Some vehicles had as many as four people.

There were little tests within the test. As she filled a group of prescriptions, Becky Pittman muttered, "I've got to do this one over - allergic to doxy. Trying to trip me up."

There was also a van with a sign that said, "Broken Down Vehicle," a Russian who spoke no English, a heart attack and some who were feigning mental illness.

Asked for her assessment about halfway through, Lauren Thornton, the Health Department's nurse supervisor, said, "It's going well. I'm seeing what areas we need to work on.

"We need more nurses. If we had more nurses, we wouldn't be so backed up," she said.

But staff shortages are becoming an increasing part of public health and other government agencies' operations as funding dwindles during the faltering economy. …

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