Health Officials Say Providers Are Unprepared for Bioterrorism
Although tens of thousands of physicians have received "crash courses" on bioterrorism in the past month, public health officials warn that "vast numbers" of doctors "aren't familiar" with the 12 bacteria, viruses and toxins likely to appear in an attack, the Washington Post reports. Some health officials have said that physicians should have to undergo bioterrorism training to ensure than the public health system can "respond promptly" with drugs and vaccinations that could avert thousands of deaths in the event of a bioterrorist attack. In the past month, doctors have received a "barrage" of information from medical societies, state health departments and medical journals. Health officials hope that doctors will use the information to help "recognize and treat biological casualties, resist prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily and -- above all -- report suspicious cases immediately." Some health officials hope that "public pressure" on doctors and their "thirst for knowledge" will encourage them to undergo training on bioterrorism. "Everybody is looking to see anything unusual, but they don't have the knowledge of what to look for," Mohammed Akhter, executive director of the
American Public Health Association, said, adding, "Your eyes won't see what the mind doesn't know." However, Dr. Stuart Seides, president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, said that bioterrorism should not "skew" the nation's health care agenda. "People are still dying in large numbers of AIDS, heart disease, cancer, accidents and other things that were happening before September 11," he said, adding, "I don't think bioterrorism trumps everything else" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 10/15).