Biological Attack Preparedness Drill Held in Gilmer - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/03/05-Gilmer

Biological Attack Preparedness Drill Held in Gilmer

One East Texas community is preparing for a major emergency, a biological attack.
The Department of State Health Services held a preparedness drill in Gilmer this morning. The camouflaged fatigues and white coats of medical personnel transformed Gilmer High School in to a triage Monday morning.
"We are pretending there has been a release of a biological agent and a lot of people have become ill," said Dr. Paul McGaha, Regional Director of the the Texas Department of State Health Services. 
The attack agent: the plague, a disease that could kill 1 in 7 people in a community.
"This particular area we are exercising the dispensing of medication facet," said Dr. McGaha. 
The first of many drills this year, prepared Upshur County officials in educating the public.
More than 500 volunteers pretending to be patients watched a video, and filled out questionnaires telling the medical team where to go next.
"A certain amount of them were given role playing cards," said site director and Gilmer High School Principal, Gary Whitwell. "Some of them suspected that they had already been exposed to a biological agent. One person for instance had a card that said they were coughing up blood."
The mock patients with the most serious symptoms were transported to receive immediate help. Others were taken to areas where in the event of a real attack, they would receive vaccines.
"It took most people about an hour from the time they got here to the time they got back in their cars to go home," said Whitwell, "so I think it went pretty smoothly."
Officials say biological threats at the local level are very real, and that they can never be too prepared when it comes to saving lives in East Texas.
Members of the State Department of Health Services will meet on Friday to discuss any changes that need to be made to the system. At least a dozen drills are planned for this year in East Texas.

Maya Golden reporting, mgolden@kltv.com 

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