August 2, 2009

Anthrax attack requires quick response

A large attack on a major U.S. metropolitan area with airborne anthrax could affect more than 1 million people, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Nathaniel Hupert of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, who is also director of the Preparedness Modeling Unit at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said no matter how well-organized and prolonged a treatment program is, it must be quickly implemented.

In fact, our analysis shows that time-to-treatment is roughly twice as important as the duration of the distribution program, Hupert said in a statement. Crucial to rapidly implementing a treatment program is early detection, including thorough use of advanced biosurveillance technologies and live, person-to-person communication.

The study predicts that a campaign of powerful antibiotics initiated two days after exposure would protect as many as 87 percent of exposed individuals from illness -- a rate considered successful by the CDC.

Each additional day needed to complete the campaign would result in an average of up to 2.9 percent more hospitalizations in the exposed population, the study found.

The findings are published in the journal Medical Decision Making.