Minn. health officials simulate anthrax exposure for training drill

Health officials in Rochester, Minnesota, held a mass vaccination exercise on Thursday, using a simulated scenario involving exposure to the deadly anthrax bacterium.

Olmsted County Public Health bussed in more than 1,000 employees from Filmore, Wabasha and Olmsted counties to participate in the scenario. Officials said that the exercise will help them to prepare for a response to biological incidents as well as natural disasters, KAALtv.com reports.

"This type of exercise helps us respond to floods, tornadoes, severe weather," Pete Giesen, a representative with Olmsted County Public Health, said, according to KAALtv.com. "Really any type of emergency. So this is an exercise for both public health, but other community and county organizations as well."

The volunteers filled out paperwork, received a bottle of fake antibiotics in the form of candy and a simulated anthrax vaccine that was actually a flu shot.

"The goal is to be able to get as many people vaccinated, and their antibiotics as quickly as possible," Giesen said, according to KAALtv.com.

The volunteers at the exercise said Thursday's drill was an organized success.

"I thought this was a great experience," Stephanie Podulke, a participant in the drill, said, according to KAALtv.com. "It was very well organized and its good to know that if a big natural disaster of some sort happened, we would be prepared to know how to respond to it and that's great."

The federally mandated drill is done every three years and was last performed in 2008 because of the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 and 2010.