Perceptions about the threat of bioterrorism could impair the nation's response

ST. LOUIS-A study by researchers at Saint Louis University School of Public Health found that while a majority of health care professionals surveyed believe the United States is at a high or somewhat high risk of bioterrorism (74 percent), the same professionals believe that their individual communities are at low risk of an attack (32 percent).

"It appears to be an it-can't-happen-to-me response," said Brooke Shadel, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of public health and associate director of the Center for the Study of Bioterrorism and Emerging Infections at Saint Louis University School of Public Health. "But here's the problem. If you perceive the risk is low in your community then you may not value training information and you may be less likely to seek out information or maintain current references. This low perception of risk may leave the professionals who are supposed to be on the frontlines of such an event unprepared, and that's our concern."

Shadel and her co-investigators at Saint Louis University (Greg Evans, Bruce Clements, Terri Rebmann and John J. Chen) surveyed more than 1,200 infection control practitioners (ICP) throughout all 50 states. An ICP is someone whose job it is to identify and control infectious outbreaks. In this study, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), the majority of those surveyed were nurses.

Shadel and her colleagues also found that ICPs in the Midwest and in rural areas felt they were less at risk of attack than ICPs living in urban areas and in other regions of the country. Study details were published in the current issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Shadel said the investigation was designed to identify not only risk perceptions about bioterrorism and emerging infections but to understand how receptive ICPs are to training and how they prefer to receive the information.

"We asked the practitioners where they would go for informati

Contact: Joe Muehlenkamp
Saint Louis University

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