DHS Releases Guidance for Protecting Responders’ Health Following an Aerosol Anthrax Attack

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued guidance, based on a federal interagency working group effort, to educate first responders on protective actions they should take in the event of a wide-area anthrax release. The document, Guidance for Protecting Responders’ Health during the First Week Following a Wide-Area Aerosol Anthrax Attack, focuses on a specific scenario of a large-scale aerosol anthrax release in a major U.S. city and the immediate post-attack environment. The guidance can be found online at DHS.gov.
“In the event of a large-scale anthrax attack, our most valuable assets will include the very people responsible for the protection and preservation of life and property,” said Dr. Alexander Garza, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer of DHS. “Our first responders must know how to protect themselves so they can keep their communities safe.”
The guidance, which is non-binding, provides recommendations for responders risking high, moderate, and limited exposure based on their expected activities and their potential to travel through the affected area in the immediate aftermath of an attack. Pre- and post-event vaccination, the use of personal protective equipment, and personal decontamination (which may include disposal of protective clothing, laundering of all other garments, and showering with soap after a work shift) are among the recommendations.
The guidance is expected to evolve based on changes to understanding of risks, the availability of personal protections, stakeholder feedback, scientific developments, and new environmental monitoring techniques. The federal interagency working group consisted of subject matter experts in biodefense, infectious diseases, and occupational health and safety, including subject matter experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.