Can hospitals cope with a large-scale bio-terror attack?

By Indo Asian News Service | Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | 3:59:33 PM IST (+05:30 GMT) Comment 0 Comment

New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Can hospitals in a big metropolis such as Delhi cope with the outcome of a covert anthrax attack, in spite of an effective public health response which could be tripped by delays in detecting the attack and initiating a response?

New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Can hospitals in a big metropolis such as Delhi cope with the outcome of a covert anthrax attack, in spite of an effective public health response which could be tripped by delays in detecting the attack and initiating a response?

Scientists in the US have recommended counter-measures to minimize a hospital surge resulting from anthrax-related illness and a response in the first two days after a major bio-terrorism attack.

In a study they have examined one of the major bio-terrorism response programmes of the Centres of Disease Control (CDC), called the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI).

The researchers found that a CRI-compliant prevention of disease campaign starting two days after exposure would protect as many as 86 percent of exposed victims from illness.

However, each additional day needed to complete the campaign would result in as much as three percent more hospitalizations in the exposed population.

Unsustainable levels of hospitalizations would result from delays in detecting and initiating a response to large-scale, covert aerosol anthrax releases in a major city, even with highly effective mass prophylaxis campaigns.

The report, authored by Nathaniel Hupert, incorporates some of the latest types of modelling techniques scientists use in disaster preparedness. Such models have become increasingly important to public health officials and hospital administrators.

This research set out to determine the best way a clinic could vaccinate as many as 15,000 clients in 17 hours, including such factors as how to best configure the personnel to maximize the number of clients vaccinated; and to estimate the costs and revenue of such an undertaking.

The researchers found that it was possible for the clinic to reach its target and that using a computer simulation could help them determine the most efficient use of staff, machinery, supplies, and time.

'How hospitals and public health agencies are prepared for an attack--and how they respond to the surge in patients seeking care-will determine our success in containing an attack if one happens.'' said Mark Helfand, editor of Medical Decision Making, which published the report.

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