ith the Federal Government's plan for initiating the vaccination of military personnel and healthcare workers throughout the nation
from smallpox, Winthrop-University Hospital is among those partaking in the voluntary program. President Bush has made it clear that healthcare workers are among the country's first line of defense against a potential
bioterror attack using the smallpox virus and Winthrop takes seriously the task at hand - protecting the health
of the community - in good times and bad.
"The goal of implementing the smallpox vaccination program and a bioterrorism preparedness plan at Winthrop is to ensure that the hospital continues to function, serving all patients whether they have been exposed to the
smallpox virus or are
experiencing any other
illness," explained Gerald Brody, MD, Chairman of Winthrop's Emergency Services Department. "Taking part in the
vaccination program is
one way to ensure the
normal operation of the hospital in the event of
a bioterror attack."
Dr. Brody explained that no one is immune to the virus anymore, even
if they were previously
immunity only lasts about 10 years. The last smallpox vaccines were given in the late 1970's leaving the public vulnerable to the virus.
With the vaccination, a person's immunity is close to
Dr. Gerald Brody points out some of the telltale signs of the smallpox disease.|
The government's vaccination program is a three-phase project with the initial phase targeting healthcare workers in hospitals across the nation. Approximately 500,000 people will be vaccinated during this phase.
Dr. Brody stated that the smallpox vaccination
program, which is offered to healthcare workers on a
voluntary basis, is a crucial part of Winthrop's overall bioterrorism preparedness plan. "Smallpox is only one bioterror scenario and is very scary because there is no specific treatment," said Dr. Brody. "By protecting and immunizing the hospital community, we can better care
for the overall public. Our front line professionals will be ready to care for those exposed in the event of an attack."
Winthrop's Bioterrorism Plan - a Hospital at the Ready
According to Dr. Brody, one of the pioneers of Winthrop's bioterrorism preparedness plan, the Hospital
is equipped with a series of antibiotics and antidotes, including Mark I kits -
specific antidotes for nerve gases made available by
In addition, as part of the Emergency Department expansion and renovation project, new decontamination showers have been added and the Department is doing surveillance of
any unusual cases that come through the ER.
"We have done training and implemented policies
to ensure that we are as prepared as possible,"
Dr. Brody stressed that information is key. "It is
important for healthcare workers as well as the general public to understand and recognize signs and symptoms
of various diseases."
He continued, "Listen to national alerts, pay attention to what goes on around you, especially when traveling.
Be aware of illnesses that aren't typical. Our best defense is education and information."
For more information on Winthrop's Emergency Services Program, call 1-866-WINTHROP.