in the Loop
The two patients had initially
sought medical care in mid-October for "mild, nonspecific
illnesses" and were sent home. The first had complained
of abdominal pain, while the second had flu-like symptoms.
Days later, both were dead.
Despite the different initial
symptoms, the two postal workers shared the same cause of
death: inhalation anthrax. With a more timely diagnosis and
an immediate course of antibiotics, the postal workers would
have had a better chance at survival.
Since last fall, John
, MD, has been working to ensure
clinicians across the country have the information they need
to diagnose and treat any future victims of bioterrorism.
Bartlett's method is to electronically link physicians and
others to dependable information on biological agents like
anthrax, smallpox, tularemia, and others.
Bartlett, a founding director
of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and chief
of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine,
set up a listserv, essentially an e-mail list. He sends information
weekly to more than 18,000 infectious disease specialists,
microbiologists, clinicians, and others across the country.
"The perception is that
the medical care community has never been in the loop and
that always bothered me," says Bartlett. "But the
Johns Hopkins Hospitals of the world, the practitioners, they
are a very important part of the health care delivery team."
So far the listserv has distributed
an anthrax primer with information on diagnosis, treatment,
and prophylaxis; reports from scientific meetings; and updates
on the latest research.
The Center for Civilian Biodefense
Strategies was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the
Blum-Kovler Foundation, a portion of which will bolster the
listserv project by paying for technical help and adding content.
In addition to the listserv,
Bartlett and his team have added the Center's recommendations
on the treatment of anthrax and other biological agents to
the Guide to Antibiotics and Infectious Diseases, a Hopkins-produced
electronic antibiotics guide for desktop PCs or handheld devices
like PalmPilots. The guide, designed to provide quick answers,
is already used by 60,000 physicians, according to Bartlett.
Bartlett also plans to develop
a regional listserv of all infectious disease specialists
in Maryland. In the future, Maryland physicians in this network
will be able to notify or query each other immediately via
handhelds or e-mail about unusual illnesses, flu cases with
atypical symptoms, and so on. - BWS
To join the current listserv, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.