Bioterrorism FAQs

Amy K. Erickson

Pharmacy Today. 2001;7(11) 

In This Article

What can a pharmacist do during an outbreak?

"One of the main things pharmacists will be doing is calming people's fears and educating them," said Terriff. Pharmacists should talk to people directly and refer them to helpful Web sites and designated hotlines. During an outbreak, hospitals will be flooded with people who are infected, and physicians will rely on pharmacists to dispense medication or administer vaccines to the walking well. Almost every community in America has several local pharmacies, and as part of a state or city preparedness plan, these pharmacies could serve as alternatives to hospitals during a crisis.

"Once people have their prescriptions, they will still have a lot of questions," explained Terriff. "For example, Florida is a location with lots of sunlight. Some antibiotics -- including the doxycycline and ciprofloxacin used for anthrax -- make people sensitive to the sun. Patients need to know to not only protect themselves from the sun but also to keep taking the medication even if the sensitivity occurs." One way for pharmacists to combat long lines at hospitals or pharmacies is to divide patients into groups and counsel en masse.

In a hospital during a biological attack, the pharmacist will be an important guide in triage areas. "Pharmacists can assist by performing patient assessments and taking medical histories," said Downs.

They can be involved with counseling patients about dosages, adherence, drug interactions, and adverse reactions. "Pharmacists will assist physicians in providing information about the medications. For instance, if a patient has drug allergies, a pharmacist can offer alternatives. It will be the pharmacist's job to help obtain medications if they are not on the shelves and help get the medications to the patients," said Tee.

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