- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) — Mock patients acting out flulike symptoms of a mystery illness began showing up at hospitals in the Chicago area yesterday as part of the national bioterrorism drill.

According to the script of the five-day drill, which started Monday in Seattle with the simulated detonation of a radioactive “dirty bomb,” it will take a few days for authorities and medical officials to connect the two events.

And by the end of the week, officials are supposed to have traced the Chicago illnesses to the release of pneumonic plague by a fictional terrorist group.

The drill, aimed at testing the readiness of local, state and federal authorities, is the nation’s first large-scale counterterrorism exercise since the attacks of September 11.

As buses carrying the first wave of volunteer patients showed up at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in suburban Park Ridge, Edward Buikema, regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he was pleased so far with the cooperation among agencies in Chicago.

“There are tremendous benefits that we are learning just from working with all the folks in this room,” he said, speaking in the agency’s regional operations center.

Behind him, representatives of various agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local authorities, participated in the drill, answering phones and discussing new information.

Mock patients also were assigned to show up later at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. All of the “patients” involved in the drill will wear T-shirts identifying them as volunteers, said Vince Davis, a FEMA spokesman.

In addition to Illinois Masonic and Advocate Lutheran, other facilities would be getting written reports of mock patients, followed by real people acting out the same flulike symptoms.

The exercises, which are being headed by the Homeland Security Department, will cost an estimated $16 million and involve more than 8,500 people from 100 federal, state and local agencies, the Red Cross and the Canadian government.

In Seattle’s scenario, 150 persons were “injured” by the explosion Monday, and 92 were taken to hospitals.

Rescuers sought 20 persons believed to have been buried in the rubble created by the blast and two were reported killed.

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