Bioterror Protection: Debunking the Myths
So the decision is complex, and the
determination of when a release happens is best accomplished by public-health
officials, at which time people would be given the antibiotics.
Q: These antibiotics that have been
mentioned -- ciprofloxacin, tetracycline and doxycycline -- are they safe for
children, pregnant women, and the elderly?
Under normal situations, these antibiotics are avoided in
children and pregnant women. However, if that individual has been exposed to
anthrax, the benefit may outweigh the risks of taking the antibiotic. These are
consensus recommendations, but they have not been studied in children and
Q: Is the purchase of electrolytes,
latex gloves, paper surgical masks, and paper gowns a wise choice? How do they
They would not protect people because, again, most of these
agents are not contagious from person to person, and in the case of smallpox
they would likely not suffice. There is very little reason to purchase these
Q: Aren't the symptoms of anthrax
like those of the flu or common cold? Should someone with flu symptoms go to
the doctor and get tested as a precautionary measure?
The early symptoms of anthrax are very much like the flu;
however, in the absence of a case, I don't think people with flu-like symptoms
need to be concerned. Healthcare personnel are on alert so that if somebody
presents with a rapidly progressive illness that is consistent with anthrax,
they would make the diagnosis as quickly as possible.
Q: Can people do things to build up
their immune systems now so that in the event of bioterrorism they'd have a
Not that I am aware of. We know that people who are chronically
ill are at higher risk of acquiring infections, but I am not aware of any
specific therapy that would boost one's immune system.
Q: It sounds like you can't really
prepare or protect yourself.
I think it is wise to compare this to a terrorist attack -- there
is very little we can do, and as Americans we hate that. We are the doers, you
It really is in the hands of our government
and public health system to protect the population in the event of such a
horrible event. There has been considerable anxiety, which is understandable
from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but I believe the threat itself has not
increased; the perception of the threat has changed. As a citizen, I would
prepare my house and family just as I would for any other natural disaster,
such as have water, flashlights, and commonsense things in place.