- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Johns Hopkins University soon will begin providing an electronic network to deliver treatment information rapidly to physicians in the event of a bioterrorist attack.
The network became necessary because obtaining critical medical information proved difficult for many doctors during the anthrax attacks last year.
The Clinician's Biodefense Network will connect physicians with biodefense experts and provide them with information about treating and recognizing symptoms of exposure to biological agents, such as smallpox, anthrax and botulism, said Lew Radonovich, team leader of the project and senior fellow at the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
There is a desperate need for such a system because "a number of physicians have gone on record as saying their best source of [medical] information" during the anthrax attacks last fall "was CNN," Mr. Radonovich said. "Doctors just didn't know where to turn to find out what to do."
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta distributes information to state and local public health departments, "the clinical information needs to get out to the doctors who see patients," he said.
"The idea with our network is that it would provide doctors with relatively timely updates that will be distributed quickly," he explained. "The situation with a bioterrorism attack is very unique because it would require a very rapid response" to stem the disease outbreak.
The new network will give physicians a central source to find treatment information. "Physicians are inundated with information and don't have time to look up the information that they need," Mr. Radonovich said.
The network also will provide updates once or twice a month about developments in the field of biological weapons. In addition to treatment information, it will allow physicians to communicate with each other if there's an outbreak.
Such communication could be critical to identifying quickly those affected by biological agents, said Dan Hanfling, director of emergency management and disaster preparedness for Inova Health Systems in Fairfax.
Mr. Hanfling put out an alert to Northern Virginia hospitals last fall about the signs of anthrax infection immediately after hearing of the first case in Florida. This action might have been what enabled a doctor in an Inova Fairfax Hospital emergency room to make a diagnosis of anthrax in a postal worker from the Brentwood facility in Washington.
During the anthrax mailings last October, which killed five persons including two postal workers the hospital saw two Brentwood employees who had contracted anthrax. One doctor discovered that one of her patients worked at Brentwood and realized that the facility handled mail for the Senate Hart Office Building, which had received a letter contaminated with anthrax.
"In the heat of the battle, we need to make sure that pertinent information is getting into the hands of those who need it," Mr. Hanfling said of the network.
Thousands of physicians across the country have expressed interest in it, Mr. Radonovich said. He hopes to start it by the end of the year.

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