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LOCKPORT – More than 80 percent of the workers in Niagara County government signed up in advance for a vaccination drill to be held today in county buildings in Lockport and Niagara Falls.
Elaine C. Roman, director of public health planning and emergency preparedness, said workers will be able to receive flu shots and immunizations against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. But the event also will simulate mass distribution of antibiotics in case of a bioterrorism attack.
More than 1,500 workers registered to come to either the Public Safety Training Facility in Lockport or the Trott Access Center in Niagara Falls during the work day. Some signed up for the real shots: 213 for flu and 185 for the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis combination.
But everyone will line up to receive a packet of M&Ms, labeled as if they were antibiotic pills. The candy was placed in blister packs prepared by McKinney Pharmacy, Roman said
The point is to practice how the county would hand out real antibiotics to large numbers of people in case of a biological emergency.
“In any emergency, we need to take care of our employees first. They’re our most important asset,” Roman told the Board of Health on Thursday.
In other matters, the county is still on track to complete the turnover of its home care programs to Catholic Health System by the end of the year, Deputy Public Health Director Victoria Pearson said.
The county Health Department’s 2013 budget proposal includes three months of funding for the two programs whose licenses were sold to Catholic Health: the Long Term Home Health Care Program and the Certified Home Health Agency.
The county is awaiting state approval for its Licensed Home Care Services Agency, which would allow Health Department workers to enter homes for purposes such as monitoring tuberculosis treatments.
Kathleen Cavagnaro, director of nursing services, said she received a verbal approval in late September, but legal review in the state Health Department remains incomplete.
Also Thursday, the board decided there is no need to recommend adoption of a neighbor notification law for spraying of pesticides on lawns. It’s an issue the board put on hold a year ago.
Environmental Health Director James J. Devald said the county hasn’t received any complaints this year about such spraying.
Devald also reported that 2,958 animals were vaccinated against rabies at the Health Department’s free clinics this year, with one more to go, Dec. 1 in North Tonawanda. Seven rabid animals have been reported this year: four raccoons, a bat, a skunk and a cat.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com