State Prepares for Pandemic Should one Ever Happen

JONESBORO, AR -- Imagine a virus that kills millions around the world in just a few months.  It happened in 1918 when a flu pandemic killed thousands right here in Region eight.  To make sure the state will be ready in case we were to ever have another pandemic, the state of Arkansas is offering free flu shots to test its response.

"In 1918 there was an epidemic that spread and it was actually in this local area so we're just trying to prevent a second occurrence," said Lauren Houser.

Lauren Houser is one of several nursing students helping inoculate the public against the flu.

"We don't know when something like this would happen and involving the nursing students, especially those that are prepared to give injections and know what the side effects would be, it's important to see that we could handle the situation," said Houser.

"The state decided that this would be a good opportunity to test how ready we are," said Amy Howell, Administrator of the Craighead County Health Unit.

The vaccine is being offered for free so that a good crowd of participants would come out to be a part of the exercise.

"Not only are we helping our community, our community is helping us get ready in case of an emergency," said Howell.

A lot of the participants say they usually get their flu shot but this time volunteers helped herd the shot recipients in and out quickly, just like they would if it were a real emergency.

"We don't really know what holds for the future.  You could have a lot of different types of emergency," said Janna Seats.

So are we ready and could this happen here again?

"It's always possible and we're trying to get ready for that.  We want to be ready," said Howell.

Another tangent of this exercise is trying something new to make sure everyone who needs an inoculation gets it.  For their convenience, a drive through was used for those that are disabled or otherwise unable to get out of their cars.

Another part of this test was to find out how many volunteers would be needed.  With nursing students, volunteer nurses, and everyone else who pitched in this exercise seemed to be a success.