DHS releases guidance for responders in the event anthrax attack

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently issued guidance to aid first responders in protecting themselves in the event of a wide-area anthrax attack.

The document, based on the findings of a federal interagency working group, focuses on a specific scenario that first responders might face - a large-scale release of aerosolized anthrax in a major U.S. city and the immediate post-attack environment.

The guidance is considered non-binding and provides a series of recommendations for those working with a high, moderate or limited risk of exposure while operating in or traveling through affected areas in the immediate aftermath of an attack. The document covers the first week following the release of aerosolized anthrax.

The guidance covers procedures for pre- and post- event vaccination, the use of personal protective gear and personal decontamination. DHS announced that the guidance should be expected to change over time based on new evaluations of the risks involved, the availability of personal protective gear, stakeholder feedback and new scientific developments.

The federal interagency working group that oversaw the guidance's drafting included experts on biodefense, infectious diseases and occupational health and safety from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.