Pandemic Doesn't Have to Mean Pandemonium

The Vanderburgh County Health Department conducted a pandemic influenza response exercise to eliminate confusion about its role in the event of a real emergency.

Here's the mock-scenario. The state of Indiana is four months into becoming part of an influenza pandemic.

More and more people are getting sick and the local Health Department needs to protect everyone else from catching it.

It's a huge endeavor that requires lots of preparation.

Step one: Volunteers fill out forms regarding their medical history. Next, they're evaluated by the medical staff.

If they currently have a fever, cough or any other sign of the flu, they're quickly segregated from everyone else.

Some of the volunteers have been asked to pretend being stressed out, so they're sent to talk to a mental health professional.

The staff is thrown all kinds of curve balls to learn what to do in each situation. Many of them are performing roles very different from their normal jobs at the Health Department.

For this exercise, Chris Allen is the Public Information Officer.

Allen says, "This is interesting for the day, but I will be glad to go back to Laboratory Director."

The anti-viral drug Tamiflu has been shown to ward off the flu, so the government has been stockpiling it.

Because of its value, the pills were delivered here under heavy security.

The staff determines the appropriate candidates for Tamiflu and sends them home with their dosage and instructions to take one capsule by mouth every day for 42 days.

At the end, they get feedback from the volunteers about the whole experience.

Volunteer Elizabeth Schmidt says, "They did a really good job. So, I feel safe if an epidemic ever comes through Evansville."

The Health Department had asked for 500 volunteers. Unfortunately, they had nowhere near that number.

It was good news for the volunteers. Instead of it taking three hours to get through the process, they were out in 45 minutes.