Biological terrorism and the allergist's office practice
Abstract:During the anthrax outbreak and threat in Trenton (2001), our allergy practice experienced increased visits from approximately 50 of our regular patients with symptoms they believed resulted from anthrax exposure. In all cases, their symptoms were caused by a combination of an exacerbation of their underlying allergic disease and anxiety because of possible exposure to anthrax. Our objective is to present an orderly approach to the allergist's outpatients presenting with possible exposure to a bioterrorist's agent. The 10 precepts of approach to the management of a biological casualty (index of suspicion, protect yourself, patient assessment, decontaminate, diagnose, treat, infection control, alert authorities, assist in investigation, and maintain proficiency) and the epidemiological characteristics of a biological attack are discussed. In table form, we compared the signs and symptoms of the most common outpatient consultations to an allergist's office practice (chronic rhinitis, asthma, food allergy, venom allergy, atopic dermatitis, drug allergy, chronic urticaria, acute urticaria, immunodeficiency, and anaphylaxis) with those of likely bioterrorism threats. Descriptions of smallpox, plague, tularemia, anthrax, viral hemorrhagic fevers, Q fever, brucellosis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, glanders, and melioidosis are presented. Patients may readily mistake their allergic symptoms with those of infection with a bioterrorist's agent. At the same time, the allergist may be faced with one of his own chronic patients presenting with symptoms resembling their allergic disease but actually caused by one of the aforementioned pathogens.
Keywords: Acute urticaria; Q fever; Venezuelan equine encephalitis; anaphylaxis; anthrax brucellosis; asthma; atopic dermatitis; bioterrorism; chronic rhinitis; drug hypersensitivity; food allergy; glanders; immunodeficiency; melioidosis; plague; smallpox; tularemia; venom allergy; viral hemorrhagic fevers
Document Type: Review Article
Affiliations: Department of Medicine, St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Publication date: 2011-07-01
- Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.
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