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Hopkins study dispels 'panic' myth and suggests ways to involve public in response to a bioterrorist attack

decisions on how to protect themselves. Biodefense planners must also create a constructive role for the public, which should be closely based on existing social structures and routines.

People tend to stick to the standards of civil behavior and their normal social roles even under the most challenging circumstances. Following the anthrax attack, sales of Ciproflaxacin and gas masks increased dramatically. This was not a panic reaction. Based on the circumstances, many people reasonably thought this was the best way to protect themselves, their families, and their children, explains Dr. Glass.

Next, the researchers recommend that biodefense planners recognize the public as an active participant in responding to an attack. Volunteers and organizations rushed to Ground Zero to help survivors of the World Trade Center attack, despite the dangers. Dr. Schoch-Spana led a rapid response research team to New York following the World Trade Center attacks, documenting the creative and resourceful ways people have organized themselves to offer assistance over the short and long-term. Similarly, in the bioterrorism context, civic organizations, such as churches, charities, and associations could be used to distribute information and medications, and to monitor for disease outbreaks.

According to the researchers, biodefense planners must not solely rely on the hospital system to care for the sick during a bioterrorism disaster. Hospitals today operate on a just-in-time principal to deliver care. They do not have enough doctors, nurses, beds, or equipment to care for a massive surge of patients. We will need to rely on volunteers and non-professionals to deliver some care and use community groups as we once did during the flu pandemic of 1918 or as the Israeli government did during the Persian Gulf War, explains Dr. Glass.

The researchers stress that information and communication with the community must be an important component of biodefense. I
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Contact: Tim Parsons or Ming Tai
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
4-Dec-2001


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