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.
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Venezuelan equine encephalitis;
viral hemorrhagic fevers
Document Type: Review Article
Department of Medicine, St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Publication date: 2011-07-01
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