Montana county to simulate anthrax outbreak

Montana's Beaverhead County is planning to utilize 500 "zombie" volunteers to prepare for a potential anthrax or smallpox outbreak.

The Beaverhead County Health Department is seeking the 600 volunteers for its "Drill of the Dead" event at the National Guard Armory, which will be held on Halloween. The county has approximately $40,000 to spend on emergency preparedness this year, reports.

The Drill of the Dead is expected to simulate a disaster like an anthrax or smallpox attack and the ensuing emergency response. In the event of a release of such biotoxins, emergency responders would be called upon to treat as many as 270 people per hour to prevent serious illness or death.

A deeper look into communicable disease disasters is also planned for Oct 30, when local city and government officials will meet to discuss eventualities.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies anthrax as Category A biological agent, placing it among those pathogens that are the most dangerous to public health.

Anthrax can be fatal in approximately 40 percent of cases when it is ingested into the gastrointestinal system. Inhalation anthrax can be lethal in as many as 90 percent of cases. Cutaneous infection, when anthrax comes into contact with the skin, is deadly in approximately one to 20 percent of cases if the patients get treatment early.

If the infection has time to develop inside of a person's body, the disease can become untreatable. People infected with anthrax receive antibiotics to treat the disease in its early stages. Anthrax can be transmitted from infected animals to people but is not transmissible between humans.