April 11, 2003

Physicians Describe Chemical and Biological Emergency Prepardness

Scripps Foundation to Host Free Seminar Featuring Emergency Planning Advice from Scripps Chula Vista Epidemiologist

As the United States continues its war against terrorism, many South Bay residents worry about the threat of a nuclear, biological, chemical, incendiary or explosive attack within county borders.

At a free seminar of the Frontiers in Medicine series, to be held April 16, Antonio Cabinian, M.D., consulting physician and epidemiologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital Chula Vista and Brent Eastman, M.D., chairman of Scripps Health’s Disaster Preparedness Task Force, will address what San Diegans may expect in case of such an attack, what they can do to protect themselves and their loved ones and how Scripps Health is working with local public health authorities to be prepared.

Terrorism - the unlawful use of force or violence against people or property to intimidate or coerce a government or its civilian population to further political or social objectives - may include one or many targets and one or many incidents.

Eastman, also chief medical officer of Scripps Health, and Cabinian will provide a brief description of the history of such epidemics as the plague in Europe through current biological agents, including smallpox, botulism, anthrax, tularemia, plague and viral hemorrhagic fever.

“Shelter, Shut and Listen,” the nationally accepted term for the response to a nuclear, biological or chemical terror attack, will also be discussed. 

This process details how to react following an attack, such as staying inside a shelter or facility during the period of potential exposure to chemical hazards and “sheltering” individuals using pre-arranged measures, including:

- Limiting the number of people moving in and out of the shelter

- Securing outside air sources

- Communicating the outside danger to all occupants

- Maintaining normal business function

“Preparing for such an attack requires any group, whether it’s a company or a family, to understand the basic rules of protecting itself from danger,” said Eastman. “First, try to quarantine the affected individual from others as much as possible. Second, alert the authorities, and take the affected person to the nearest health facility.

“If not immediately affected by the attack, individuals should remain in a secure location, not venture outdoors and wait for information from the authorities to learn what steps should be taken next.”

Scripps Health, one of the largest health care providers in San Diego County, is familiar with the National Disaster Medical System, a cooperative, asset-sharing program among federal government agencies, state and local governments, and private businesses and civilian volunteers.

The system’s goal is to ensure resources are available to provide medical services following a disaster.

Scripps Health team members are trained to be first-responders, the first line of defense for dealing with and preventing the spread of problems following an attack. Multiple drills have been conducted by Scripps Health hospitals, including a September 2002 trial at Scripps Memorial Hospital Chula Vista in, preparing disaster response personnel with experience in dealing with protection suits, the decontamination process and diagnosing and treating possible illnesses or side effects from an attack.

The seminar will be held Wednesday, April 16, beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and program at 6:30 p.m., both at the San Diego Museum of Natural History, 1788 El Prado, Balboa Park. For more information or to attend the seminar, contact Suzanne Swanson by calling 858/678-6364 or by sending an e-mail to swanson. suzanne@scrippshealth.org. R.S.V.P.s are required.

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