More than one-half of 631 physicians tested were unable to correctlydiagnose diseases caused by agents most likely to be used bybioterrorists, such as smallpox, anthrax, botulism and plague,according to a Johns Hopkins study published in the Sept. 26 issue ofArchives of Internal Medicine.
However, test scores improved dramatically for the same physiciansafter they completed an online training course in diagnosing andmanaging these diseases caused by bioterrorism agents, according to thestudy.
"Most American physicians in practice today have never seen anycases of these diseases in their practice," explained Sara Cosgrove,M.D., M.S., a faculty member in Hopkins' Division of InfectiousDiseases. "Preparation will be key to dealing with a major catastrophe,such as a major bioterrorist attack. Education and training healthcareproviders in disease recognition, treatment and prevention strategieshave the potential to significantly limit the effects of a bioterrorismattack."
In the study, 631 physicians at 30 internal medicine residencyprograms in 16 states and Washington, D.C. were tested on how torecognize and treat bioterrorism-related diseases before and aftertaking an online course in bioterrorism disease. On the pretest,correct diagnosis of diseases due to bioterrorism agents was smallpox,50.7 percent; anthrax, 70.5 percent; botulism, 49.6 percent; andplague, 16.3 percent (average 46.8 percent), the researchers report.Correct diagnosis averaged 79.0 percent after completion of the course.Correct management of smallpox in the pretest was 14.6 percent;anthrax, 17.0 percent; botulism, 60.2 percent; and plague 9.7 percent(average 25.4 percent). Correct management averaged 79.1 percent aftercourse completion.
Other Hopkins researchers involved in the study includeStephen Sisson, M.D., assistant professor of medicine; Trish Perl,M.D., M.Sc., associate professor of medicine and pathology and hospitalepidemiologist; and Xiaoyan Song, M.D., assistant professor of medicine.
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