Guarding Against Anthrax
Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with Anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in United States history.
Although an attack on the United States using weaponized Anthrax is considered a very low probability now, it is still important to prepare for such an event. After all, the fatality rate for those exposed to Anthrax is over 99%, if left untreated. Terrorists consider it a preferred biological warfare agent because it is easy to disperse, travels quickly and is lethal.
Anthrax can be used for biological warfare, because this infectious disease has spore-forming bacteria that can be spread easily using missiles, artillery, aerial bombs and other methods. Depending on the wind, a disease such as Anthrax could spread hundreds of miles in a few short hours.
Fortunately, there is good news. There is an oral medication that has been proven effective in treating Anthrax, if administered within 48 hours of exposure. Also, in December 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order stating, essentially, that in the event of an Anthrax outbreak, the postal service had the capacity to deliver said antidote, along with instructions for administering it. One hundred and eighty days after the order was signed, the Postal Plan was enacted, a program which uses the nation’s letter carriers to deliver medical countermeasures.
However, there are several things that small businesses and individuals can do to prepare for such an attack.
1. Understand Exposure:
- Bacillus Anthracis (Anthrax) can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal.
- Anthrax can lay in soil for years, and spread by handling animal products and then failing to immediately wash hands
- Communicability is not a concern; Anthrax does not spread easily from person to person
2. Recognize the symptoms:
- Over 95% of Anthrax cases are from Bacillus Anthracis that has entered the skin. The first sign of a cutaneous Anthrax infection is a small bump, resembling an insect bite, which grows over the course of a few days, developing a black center.
- Those infected by inhaling Anthrax initially have symptoms that may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation Anthrax is often fatal.
- The intestinal disease form of Anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal Anthrax results in death in 25 percent to 60 percent of cases.
3. Know how to prevent possible contact with Anthrax:
- Avoid working with livestock, if possible
- Carefully examine any and all foreign packages, to ensure that they have not been contaminated
- Get the Anthrax vaccine
4. Use common sense. If you receive a package in the mail with a written threat, or a visible powdery substance in or outside of it:
- Wash hands immediately after handling
- Do NOT open it
- Call 911
- Leave the package where it is
- Move everyone away from the package, but keep those who may have come in contact with it in a separate location, until authorities arrive.
John Koerner, chief of the U.S. Health and Human Service’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Branch, said the first piece in preparing for such an emergency is to ensure that planning is evidence-based by using existing experience and expertise to inform plans and processes.
Recognizing the symptoms
Knowing the different ways Anthrax can be introduced into your system, as well as the symptoms and treatments for each particular type of infection, is a good way to prepare against this disease. Being able to identify the symptoms early on can make the difference between life and death.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.
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