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What? Doctors Don’t Know Everything?

By Hanna Aronovich in News on Oct 18, 2006 1:01PM

Apparently, Chicago emergency rooms aren’t the best places to go if you think you’ve been infected with a biological agent. Chicago ER doctors don’t know which of five likely bioterror weapons would cause specific symptoms. Yikes!

Not that we want to rile up any hypochondriacs out there, but the Tribune reported 36 Chicago physicians and 37 doctors-in-training at Resurrection Medical Center missed more than two-thirds of the questions about chemical weapons and more than 50 percent of those about biological agents.

biologo.gifThe findings were reported on Sunday at the convention of the American College of Emergency Physicians in New Orleans. And the doctors’ responses? “It was meant to be hard,” Resurrection's Dr. S.B. Chan told the Tribune.

But, fear not. Dr. Peter DeBlieux, director of emergency medicine services at Louisiana State University Health Care Systems Division, said the study didn’t mean much; it was too small to make conclusions about emergency room doctors in general.

So, how important is it for ER doctors to know about the symptoms associated with biological agents? The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology said it’s pretty important -– especially because the impact of a bioterrorist attack would be expensive, ranging from about $477 million per 100,000 people exposed to $26.2 billion per 100,000 people exposed (depending on the agent). The association even sponsors Ready or Not, an emergency preparedness survey.

In the meantime, bored hypochondriacs can go ahead and self-diagnose themselves. The Center for Disease Control has a nice, alphabetized list of all the terrible agents and diseases out there to match your symptoms to. Enjoy!