Bioterrorism and the Role of the R.Ph

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Across the United States, people are afraid. Parents are warning their children not to open mail. Office workers worry about incoming mailand grouse that their bosses would order safety precautions more quickly if they, themselves, were handling the mail.

Having just returned from the American Public Health Association Annual meeting in Atlanta, I think it would be advantageous to look at some of the issues relating to the pharmacist's role in emergency preparedness and bioterrorism.

More than ever, Amen can pharmacists need credible information and advice to pass on to their worried patients. Consider the following

* With the flu season fast approaching, many people may confuse flu symptoms with anthrax infection and rush to their hospital and/or physician to get checked. This could overwhelm emergency rooms.

* One problem in the recent anthrax scare is the overprescribing of ciprofloxacin, which has become the antibiotic of choice to treat anthrax. Antibiotics should not be prescribed to people trying to ward off anthrax unless public health officials con firm that they have been exposed to the bacteria. Pharmacists and physicians are feeling pressure from nervous patients who want a prescription, either to take now or have on hand in case of future exposure. Antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin are powerful medicines that with improper use may be bad for your patient's health, resulting in antibiotic resistance. (For more information, visit the Web site www.aware.md.)

* There is a great need for the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) to convene a task force of public health experts and pharmacists nationwide to pool public health resources and pharmacies and coordinate a rapid response to bioterrorism attacks anywhere in the country. Then pharmacists need to develop a welldefined system to train other pharmacists in emergency care and bioterrorism. An entire generation of pharmacists has no idea what anthrax or smallpox is and how to deal with either, or both, threats.

How will your pharmacy survive emergencies and bioterrorism? The answer often depends on how well prepared you are beforehand. The following checklist will help you get started:

1. Prepare an emergency kit of food, water, and supplies, including a flashlight, a portable battery-operated radio, batteries, medicines, first aid kit, money, and clothing.

2. Learn first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

3. Know how to shut off gas, water, and electricity if the lines are damaged in your pharmacy. …