Preparing Minds for Bioterrorism

I often give interviews to the press on various infectious disease topics and a few months ago I was talking to a journalist and referenced the anthrax attacks of 2001. The journalist replied, “Oh yeah, the anthrax 'scare' back then.” I replied, “it wasn’t a ‘scare’ it was an attack in which 22 people were infected and 5 murdered via spores being sent through the US Postal System.”

That 14 years have now passed since the Amerithrax attacks means that those horrific times have faded from people’s memory and that’s not a good thing because the threat remains.

With that context in mind, my colleagues and I wrote a clinical review paper with the aim of refreshing clinician’s minds with new information on these important infectious diseases (anthrax, plague, botulism, tularemia, and smallpox). We were ecstatic when the most prestigious medical journal in the world, The New England Journal of Medicine, accepted it for publication.

The subtext of the entire update is that it is vitally important for clinicians—the front-line defense against these pathogens—is armed with the knowledge necessary to recognize and treat these diseases as well as know when to sound the alarm.

As my hero Louis Pasteur famously said, “chance favors the prepared mind” and our hope is that our paper will prepared the minds of those crucial to protecting this nation from another bioattack.