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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI to run second bioterrorism exercise in November

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

University to offer training workshop,
afternoon mock medication distribution

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 29, 2004 – The University of Rhode Island has been called upon by the state Department of Health to conduct another bioterrorism response clinic exercise on Friday, Nov. 19, after having successfully run the largest university-based simulated clinic in the nation last spring.

The demonstration in November is in response to the Homeland Security requirement that states be able to mobilize clinics quickly to provide vaccinations to the general population. A smallpox outbreak in Europe or the United States will be simulated for this exercise. Last spring, the scenario involved the release of anthrax and the distribution of a mock oral medication to about 1,400 patient volunteers.

This fall’s demonstration will be smaller and will provide volunteer patients with a “mock” smallpox vaccination. A cotton swab will be used to simulate a vaccination. The vaccination clinic will run from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Keaney Gymnasium, and like the first clinic, the organizers are seeking student and campus community volunteers. Professor Thomas Mather, director of URI’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, is heading the effort.

“Last spring, the University showed the entire state that it is a resource for testing emergency preparedness in the event of a bioterrorism event,” Mather said. “Nursing, pharmacy students, other students, and our faculty and staff all made this a priority and it led to great success. That level of participation led to the health department’s request for another exercise at URI this fall,” said Mather, who coordinated the spring event.

The first part of the program begins with a workshop in Kirk Auditorium on the Kingston Campus from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. for medical care providers. URI Clinical Instructor of Nursing Nancy Doyle Moss, co-director of the program, said that the forum is open to doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who would be involved in setting up emergency drug distribution clinics. There will be presentations by experts on the disease process of smallpox, the vaccination process, and training for clinic workers.

Among the participants in the morning program and the afternoon exercise will be 25 registered nurses from The Miriam Hospital who are enrolled in the Registered Nurse-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at URI. “They will take a leadership role in the exercise, and they will be mentors to our student-nurse volunteers,” Doyle-Moss said.

These are among the goals clinic organizers have for the clinic:

• Provide a training venue for health workers in Rhode Island who may be involved in an emergency inoculation program.
• Provide specific training to inoculation staff on the technical details of administering the smallpox vaccine.
• Make this clinic available as a training event for the education of other sites throughout Rhode Island and New England.

Another major goal of the clinic is to develop a cadre of informed citizens from among the student population, so that more people will know how to react and possibly how to assist an operation in the face of a smallpox emergency.

Mather said URI’s Health Services staff, nursing students and faculty who help run the clinic will be able to bring important skills to any emergency or places where the students may eventually work.

“Again we are relying on our students to volunteer as patients to help us with this important civil preparedness exercise,” Mather said. “Students and others who volunteer as patients will gain a common-sense understanding of how such a clinic would operate in an emergency and would be better prepared to make informed decisions.”

This exercise differs from the anthrax clinic because smallpox is a contagious disease. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, direct and fairly prolonged face-to-face contact is required to spread smallpox from one person to another. Smallpox also can be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.

“If there is an outbreak, we’ll need to have clinics up and running within 10 days,” Doyle-Moss said. “Every person who comes in contact with smallpox will transmit it to 20 more. But if people get the vaccine within four days of their exposure, they should not contract the disease.”