Defense May Be Inadequate for Germ or Toxic Attacks

September 24, 2001 | Source: New York Times

Experts say civil defenses across the nation are a rudimentary patchwork that could prove inadequate for what might lie ahead, especially lethal germs, which are considered some of the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction.
There are no measures to routinely check for biological attack. Instead, the authorities rely on reports from doctors that people are seeking medical attention for unusual symptoms. That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a national alert on Sept. 11 calling on public health officials to “initiate heightened surveillance for any unusual disease occurrence or increased numbers of illnesses that might be associated with today’s events.” The alert is still in effect.

Medical experts often fault this approach as inadequate, especially because symptoms of serious illness often appear days and weeks after an infection has begun to spread and when life-saving treatments are no longer effective.