The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced the availability of a new computer model to help hospitals and health systems plan antibiotic dispensing and vaccination campaigns to respond to bioterrorism or large-scale natural disease outbreaks. Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, this new resource is the nation’s first computerized staffing model that can be downloaded as a spreadsheet and used to calculate the specific needs of local health care systems based on the number of staff they have and the number of patients they would need to treat quickly in a bioterrorism event.
With all the discussion about possible smallpox bioterrorism attacks in the U.S., has the dermatology world begun to address the cosmetic implications that an outbreak would entail? Sure, it sounds petty when lives are at stake. But if thousands of people stand to potentially become infected, has medicine developed any better means of preventing disfigurement? Drainage? Lots and lots of aloe gel? Sedatives to keep people doped until the pustules pass?
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy has urged the government to explore a possibile terrorist link to an outbreak of West Nile virus that has killed 54 people this year. “I think we have to ask ourselves: Is it coincidence that we’re seeing such an increase in West Nile virus or is that something that’s being tested as a biological weapon against us?” said Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy’s office was one of several to receive anthrax-laden envelopes last year, the Associated Press reports. Leahy said he could point to no specific evidence that the outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus was linked to terrorism, and a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no evidence to suggest an act of bioterrorism. Nearly 1,300 people in the U.S. have so far contracted West Nile. “In the times in which we live, questions about our vulnerabilities are unavoidable,” the Vermont senator said in a written statement. “Finding all the answers we can is more important than ever.”
Chalk up mass-washings as another activity wrecked by the spectre of terrorism. Thirty years ago, a call for volunteers to strip to their skivvies, as the coy Washington Post puts it, would have signaled some post-Summer of Love fun. These days, it refers to a far more sober scrubbing: the debut of a new $350,000 chemical, biological and radiation decontamination facility at the Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia.