Group releases recommendations for response to botulinum attack

A working group from the United States recently made a series of recommendations for how medical and public health professionals should respond to a bioterror attack using botulinum toxin.

Dr. Stephen S. Arnon and his colleagues from organizations such as the California Department of Health Services, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Science Applications International Corporation and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health analyzed studies from 1960 to 1999 as the basis for the guidance, according to UPI.

After examining the literature, the group sought further opinions from experts on the treatment and management of botulinum infection.

Exposure to botulinum as an aerosolized or food-borne weapon would generally cause the onset of symptoms within 12 to 72 hours of exposure. Responding effectively to a release would require timely clinical diagnosis, case reporting and epidemiological investigation.

"Persons potentially exposed to botulinum toxin should be closely observed, and those with signs of botulism require prompt treatment with antitoxin and supportive care that may include assisted ventilation for weeks or months," the researchers said, UPI reports. "Treatment with anti-toxin should not be delayed for microbiological testing."

The results of the working group's work were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.