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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 5 years ago

Bioterrorism drill tests hospitals' preparedness

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by: The Observer Staff

Local hospitals and public-health officials tested their ability to respond to a bioterrorist attack involving deliberate and widespread salmonella poisoning in Sarasota County Friday, Feb. 20.

In drill scenario, local hospitals reported an abnormal increase in the number of people with salmonella poisoning. The number of mock patients peaked dramatically Friday, prompting Sarasota Memorial Hospital to deploy a “mash-like” medical-surge unit in its south parking garage and triggering a simulated countywide response by public-health and emergency-management officials.

The culmination of the drill occurred when students and community members posing as patients arrived with severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. As doctors and nurses worked to stabilize the patients, an industrial explosion at a fictitious plastics factory in the county forced emergency-management officials to develop a countywide multi casualty plan to transport those mock patients to other local hospitals for treatment.

Meanwhile, public-health officials investigated the suspected deliberate contamination of local food with salmonella bacteria.

A fictitious extremist group was implicated in the deliberate poisoning of food/refreshments served to as many as 4,000 people.

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