(NaturalNews) A Marine Corps base held a full-scale pandemic outbreak drill within the past week, in which local health officials and U.S. Marine and Navy personnel responded to a mock "smallpox outbreak" that occurred at the installation. JDNews.com, based in Jacksonville, North Carolina, quoted Lt. Joseph Kotora, public health emergency officer for Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune as saying that the drill, called"Exercise Vigilant Response," was the first of its kind at the legendary Marine Corps recruit training base.
"The drills are usually conducted annually or semi-annually," Kotora told local press. "A drill this size has never been conducted, so this is the largest pandemic exercise to my knowledge."
Though military exercises are planned well in advance, the time of this particular drill has some questioning whether it has anything at all to do with the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Though many Americans are tired of reading and hearing about the disease, it became much more of an issue after Thomas Eric Duncan, a West African national, brought the disease to Dallas late last month. Duncan has since died of his infection, but local, state and federal health officials are continuing to monitor dozens of people whom Duncan may have come in contact with while contagious.
One addition to the Camp Lejeune exercise: Officials opted to including the administration of vaccines during the drill so that it would more accurately reflect an outbreak situation in which medical personnel would be asked to screen patients and give inoculations.
'We are trying to identify some areas where we can improve'
JDNews.com further reported:
During the exercise, Marines from various squadrons aboard the station formed single file lines and filled out forms before getting their body temperatures taken by Navy corpsmen. From there, each Marine enters the building also known as the Point of Dispersion, or POD, where flu shots were given out.
Naval medical personnel had about 1,200 flu shots on hand to administer to active-duty sailors and Marines based at New River. Kotora added that medical personnel had already administered about 700 vaccines to Marines during the first few hours of the exercise.
"This is a simulated exercise designed to test our capabilities and respond to a pandemicor biological threat," he said. "We're trying to identify some areas where we can improve and we're also trying to foster some confidence in the population that we serve... that we can respond effectively to a mass terror or a weapon of mass destruction incident."
JFK Airport in NYC to begin special screenings
There have been other developments regarding readiness in the United States following Ebola's arrival.
In New York City, authorities have implemented stricter new rules at airports regarding the screening of passengers. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that new rules for hospitals were also implemented, even while city officials are stressing to the public there is little to be concerned about:
New York's John F. Kennedy International will become the first airport in the United States to start new screening measures... aimed at halting the disease in its tracks should more cases emerge.
Specifically, travelers from the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea -- the three hardest-hit nations -- will undergo screening by Customs and Border Protection agents who will be checking for any signs of illness in general, but especially those related toEbola. U.S. Customs officials will be on alert particularly for high fevers, and travelers from the affected countries will be screened in the U.S. even if they were screened when they departed.
Of the more than 50 million people who travel through JFK each year, only a small number -- perhaps only a few dozen a -day - are estimated to come from the affected countries, AFP reported.
To learn more about how to prepare for a potential Ebola crisis here in the U.S., be sure to check out: BioDefense.com.