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PONTIAC - If there is a bioterrorism attack, the Livingston County Health Department could provide preventative medicine to 457 people in one hour.

That and other facts came out Friday as the health department, along with 12 other local authorities, practiced how they would respond to a bioterrorism attack in the county.

The bioterrorism simulation scenario, which began Tuesday, was designed to be as real as possible to show how area agencies would react, said MaLinda Hillman, Livingston County Health Department director.

"We are testing to see what would happen if we had to distribute medicines and how we would run a clinic," Hillman said of Friday's simulation. "The exercise shows us how we would respond and dispense medicine if there was a bioterrorism attack."

The health department and hospital had been conducting exercises all week to practice how they would deal with a terrorist attack.

The hospital focused on early recognition of a bioterrorism event, initial medical care and communication within the area organizations.

Heavily armed sheriff's deputies ushered people in and out of the Livingston County Health Department on Friday, while Pontiac police officers were stationed at OSF St. James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center.

Under the simulation, anthrax was released at a public event on Tuesday night.

It would take about three days for the Strategic National Stockpile to arrive in Pontiac, which would provide supplies for the hospital and health department to use when local supplies run out.

The arrival would spark a mass distribution of medicines. In the case of anthrax, it would be an antibiotic.

More than 80 people volunteered to be victims needing the preventive medicine. During the event, some acted confused and disobeyed orders while others had heart problems and collapsed.

Linda Rhodes, health educator at the health department, said the simulation exceeded the department's expectations; they had hoped to process 400 people in the hour.

"We all need to be prepared for what might happen," said Rhodes. "This will help us learn how to all work together with all the agencies, just in case."


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