Confronting the terror within
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the top of the task force's to-do list was a resource assessment.
The medical center increased its supplies of protective equipment
and antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and doxycycline, which can
treat anthrax as well as some of the other high-risk agents. Additional
breathing tubes and mechanical ventilator bags will enable the hospital
to, if necessary, triage and manually treat patients with respiratory
failure if there were a sudden influx that exceeded the capacity
of the intensive-care units.
would take some work, but we've now developed contingencies to allow
us to bend without breaking, at least in the short term, if we saw
100 people with respiratory failure," says Pegues. "When
you get much more than that, it reaches beyond the individual institution
and you need a coordinated county or statewide response."
UCLA's richest resources are its microbiology laboratories. The
campus is capable of testing several thousand specimens a day. Still,
a few letters containing anthrax spores generated the need for tens
of thousands of laboratory tests on the East Coast, both for possibly
infected individuals and for environmental sampling to ensure that
buildings were safe. At a certain point, whether due to the quantity
or the nature of the pathogen in question, UCLA would refer to the
county health department's reference laboratory, which is investing
in high-throughput machines for rapid diagnosis.
there are the human resources. UCLA is educating its primary-care
providers to recognize and report when patients present with symptoms
that raise red flags a particularly severe respiratory illness,
an acute gastrointestinal illness with internal bleeding or hemorrhaging,
a severe rash-like illness with fever that might suggest smallpox,
a spike in out-of-season cases of flu.
traditional disaster planning, first responders are the firefighters
and paramedics who arrive on the scene or the physicians in the
emergency room," notes Ridlehoover. "In an unfolding bioterrorist
event, the first responder might be a primary-care doctor or nurse
practitioner in a clinic."