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Fictitious Hepatitis A Outbreak Handled By County Health Department

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The Cortland County Health Department handled an outbreak of Hepatitis A in the community yesterday, as part of a regular state-mandated drill.

Catherine Feuerherm is County Health Director. “Once a year we get to either drill or exercise to really go through the plan and to update it wherever we see where we can make it better.”

The emergency preparedness exercise was held at the Cortland County Office Building gymnasium. Staff simulated vaccinating 77 people per hour, in response to an outbreak of hepatitis A traced to a 24-year old worker at a local grocery store.

“All staff is involved, to one extent or another and it really gives them a chance to get a feel for the real thing, when it occurs,” said Feuerherm. “Our goal is to vaccinate twenty percent of the county in a relatively short period of time.”

Feuerherm says an exercise of this size requires a lot of help, which is pretty realistic. “We have RSVP volunteers, we have volunteers from the hospital, from other counties and from other agencies, and it truly represents what a real event would look like, because, we don’t have the resources any more to do it by ourselves.”

Nancy Olp of Homer was one of the RSVP volunteers waiting in line for her “treatment.” “It’s a good practice session to see where their shortcomings are, that they resolve, and you can’t do that if you’re just looking at the process on paper,” said Olp. “You’ve really gotta walk through it.”

“So, in the event of a real emergency, we are really looking to the community to help us accomplish the task at hand,” said Feuerherm. (Reporter) “And your staff seems to be doing pretty well.” Feuerherm quickly responded, “The staff is loving every minute of it.”

Lisa Perfetti is the Health Department’s Emergency Preparedness Specialist. “This allows everybody to develop relationships that will last throughout any situation. Cortland County will be very well prepared.”

Oranges were provided in case anyone needed to practice the injections. The preparedness drill helps tune up the response, in case it’s ever needed.

Link: More photos of the drill

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