Confronting the terror within
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the hubs of expertise on campus is the 5-year-old Center for Public
Health and Disasters, which promotes interdisciplinary efforts to
reduce the health impacts of natural and man-made disasters.
center was already providing consultations and educating public-health
graduate students in bioterrorism, but those efforts were turned
up several notches after the events of the fall. A bioterrorism
training program for emergency and primary-care physicians was put
on the center's Web site, www.ph.ucla.edu/cphdr. With funding from
Sacramento, the center will soon begin to offer two-day workshops
on bioterrorism preparedness for leaders of the state's local health
issue has ratcheted up at a time when the health-care system is
already overtaxed," says Steven Rottman, the center's director.
"How long can you sustain a surge capacity before your personnel
and your facilities become overwhelmed? We're trying to help these
public-health leaders to prioritize."
many of the others interviewed for this story, Rottman's own life
has become considerably busier since September 11. After the attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, his group was flooded
with media calls asking about everything from the likelihood of
survivors to public-health risks from contamination of the surrounding
areas, along with what-if scenarios as future terrorist threats
were pondered. The initial wave had barely subsided when the anthrax
issue emerged, prompting a new round of interviews. That's to say
nothing of the increased demands for education and training that
Rottman's group is helping to meet.
running as fast as we can," he says. In February, his unit
was designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
as a federal center for public-health preparedness and will receive
funding to recruit additional experts in natural and human-generated
has not been alone in thinking about the response to a chemical
or biological attack. The U.S. government started viewing bioterrorism
as a serious threat after Iraq's increased bioweapons activity following
the Persian Gulf War, Rottman notes. In the years since the war,
the government has established a system in which "push packs"
of vaccines, antibiotics and other equipment could be deployed into
a metropolitan area within hours after an attack.
years ago, a lot of people said this was totally paranoid and that
it could never happen," Rottman says. "Today, many of
those same people are stockpiling Cipro in their closets."