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Stopping a virus cold, PHEDEX 2017

Members of Team Pete participate in the 2017 public health emergency dispensing exercise at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 16,2017. The exercise was designed to test the response time of first responders in the event of an endemic viral outbreak.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Kotecki)

Members of Team Pete participate in the 2017 public health emergency dispensing exercise at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., June 16,2017. The exercise was designed to test the response time of first responders in the event of an endemic viral outbreak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Kotecki)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- An unknown virus has broken out in the greater El Paso county region. With symptoms similar to that of the pneumonic plague, the virus appears to be spreading throughout the region. Local, state and federal aid workers have been activated to stem the wave of sickness before it becomes a full blown epidemic.

This was the scenario for the 2017 public health emergency dispensing exercise (PHEDEX) that was conducted June 6, 2017 across the state of Colorado.

The statewide exercise, which is conducted annually, was designed to test the response and procedures for first line medical responders in case an epidemic break out in the area.

Members of the 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, set up an aid station in a hanger on the flight line to rapidly inoculate and treat the Peterson AFB community that might have been exposed to the virus.

The disease containment training is based on the lessons learned during the nationwide H1N1 influenza virus out-break that occurred around the world in 2009.

“For the exercise we were able to process about 439 patients, if this was real, our numbers would be somewhere around 16,000,” said Maj. Matthew Bussa, 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron, public health flight commander.

Over 16,000 activity duty personnel, civilians, and all family members are stationed, employed or live on base.

“The exercise wasn’t just about our capabilities but also about communicating with local and state leadership on how to distribute the supplies from the national stock pile,” Bussa said.

From the time of initial indications of an endemic to when the first patient starts receiving the medicine is about 24 hours.

“Once the decision is made that we need to start treating patients, supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile are broken out and start trickling down from the federal level to the local level,” said Bussa.
If all of this sounds like a lot of moving parts, it is.

“All of the lessons and improvements that are identified today will be implemented into future protocols for something of this nature,” Bussa said.

Going forward if there ever is an outbreak on a massive scale the members of Team Pete alongside their civilian counterparts are here to make sure everyone is safe.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui