Baltimore plans major bioterror simulation

Local health officials in Baltimore are preparing to conduct a major bioterrorist disaster drill this week.

The emergency exercise is planned to test the preparedness of local health departments to respond to an attack using a biological agent, in this case anthrax. Local departments plan to distribute antibiotics nearby residents after the simulated release, according to

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is sponsoring the two day event, which is being coordinated according to plans adopted as part of the federally funded Cities Readiness Initiative. Local health departments intend to distribute medication, provide information to the public and media, and share critical data among themselves.

Fran Philips, DHMH's deputy secretary for public health services, said the drill will focus solely on the Baltimore metropolitan area, excluding nearby Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

"These exercises make us better prepared," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the secretary of DHMH, said, reports. "Training also supports collaboration for day-to-day challenges."

Different jurisdictions plan to test different aspects of the plan. Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne's counties are all scheduled to take part.

Local health workers in Baltimore will test how quickly they can receive and inventory medicine delivered from the state. Although health workers in Howard County will be going door to door in some neighborhoods to distribute medicine, the general public will not be involved in the drill.