Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Doctors: Is that smallpox?

Dr. Stephen Sisson, a researcher working out of Johns Hopkins University, recently led a study to determine whether doctors would be able to identify smallpox and other diseases likely to be used as biological weapons by terrorists or other nefarious sorts. The results of his study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (26 September issue), show the following:
  • 49.3% of doctors could not identify smallpox (warning: some graphic images) from the symptoms presented; only 14.6% of the doctors presented correct treatments for the ailment.
  • 29.5% could not identify anthrax. 17% could treat it properly.
  • 50.4% could not identify botulism. 60.2% treated it properly.
  • 83.7% could not identify plague. 9.7% of the doctors surveyed managed to treat it correctly.
After the study, the 631 physicians who took part in the study were given a review course to bring them up to snuff on correctly identifying and treating the illnesses discussed. When tested again, their diagnostic and treatment skills had improved, but it is worrisome that our doctors cannot identify the diseases that are most likely to be used in the event of a biological attack on the United States.

You can read more about the study at Forbes Magazine.

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