East Texas Counties Test Their Response To Pandemic Flu Drill

It's a scary situation that health experts say is going to happen.  Pandemic Influenza can affect millions very quickly. The bird flu is already killing people in places like Cambodia and Indonesia. Tuesday nine counties in East Texas tested their response if an outbreak of pandemic flu were to hit East Texas.  We took a look at Gregg County's simulated disaster drill.

More than 100 volunteers tested Gregg County's response in the event of a flu pandemic.

"It can happen and that is part of the reason we're doing this today, the hope is that by planning and preparing that we will be as well prepared as we can be for something that's completely unknown," says Dr. Michelle Crum, pandemic preparedness coordinator with the Gregg County Health Department.

We followed volunteer Lacey Brown, 21, through the process. The same process you'd go through if pandemic flu were to hit East Texas.  First she received a card telling her family history and the symptoms she's experiencing,

"Is there anyone in your family that is pregnant or breast feeding? Is there anyone under the age of one?," asks a Health Department worker.

She then gets the medicine needed for her fake family. Then it's off to Good Shepherd Medical Center, a local hospital, to test their emergency procedure.

"I'm having a cough and my gums are bleeding, and mucus and all kinds of stuff," Lacey tells a Good Shepherd Medical Center worker.

Once inside the doctor looks at her information.

"I think we're going to need to keep you in the hospital for a couple days," the doctor tells Lacey.

After realizing the severity of her condition, she is taken to the "critical patients" area where Lacey's card says she died from her illness.  Afterward, she talks of her experience.

"It needs to be more organized, but if they keep practicing hopefully they'll get better, I'm just glad they're making the effort to try," she says.

"It helps us to identify where we could discharge patients, where we could pull in additional staff, areas that aren't traditionally patient care areas that we could convert to makeshift patient care areas," says Beth Chrismer, Vice President of Good Shepherd Medical Center.

Later, the hospitals and the county will be critiquing themselves to improve and better protect you in the event of a real pandemic. The Gregg County Health Department says the best measure you can take to prepare for a pandemic flu is stock your pantry with two to four weeks worth of food and water.

Tracy Watler/Reporting: tracy@kltv.com