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Most doctors feel unprepared to cope with bioterrorism

University Of Chicago : 10 September, 2003  (Technical Article)
Two years after 9/11, only one of five physicians feels well prepared to care for victims of a bioterrorism attack, according to a survey published Tuesday by University of Chicago researchers.
Even so, 80 percent of the 1,000 doctors surveyed said they would care for patients 'in the event of an unknown but potentially deadly illness.'

The survey's authors say the data shows that more needs to be done to prepare the medical profession about bioterrorism.

'Two years later we really aren't where we ought to be in terms of readiness to handle the next bioterrorism event, whatever that may be,' said co-author Matthew Wynia, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago

However, doctors and government health officials say training is taking place from the medical school level on up.

'I suspect if you look at doctors just coming out of medical school, you would see very different results,' Dr. Douglas Passaro, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois Chicago. 'The challenge is to make it easy, convenient and important for established physicians who had the benefit of going to medical school in kinder, gentler times to understand what these bioterrorism agents look like.'

Passaro said this continuing education is taking place, but it will take time to reach all physicians.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has four teams of medical volunteers trained to serve as a mobile response team in emergencies. They also conducted hundreds of hours of training for local medical workers in communities across the state.

The IDPH has also channeled federal money for bioterrorism preparedness to many hospitals, including Christ in Oak Lawn, Loyola in Maywood, Highland Park in Highland Park, and Illinois Masonic in Chicago.

And while the survey indicated 20 percent of doctors were unwilling to treat bioterrorism victims, there are always enough physicians who step up to the plate, said Dr. Gary Slutkin, of the University of Illinois School of Public Health.

'I was working in San Francisco when the very first five AIDS cases came in and at that point we didn't even know it's method of infection,' Slutkin said. 'I was having nightmares, as were most of the other physicians, but we didn't pull out of it.'
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