New 'first hours' messages developed to alert public

Template messages for bioterror agents

In the first hours after a bioterrorism incident communication with the public will be critical to head off panic and rumor as the public health and medical system respond to the incident. To prepare for this critical need, a "first hours" web site has been designed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that includes messages and other resources for federal, state, local, and tribal public health officials to use during a response to an emergency. (Web site: www.bt.cdc.gov/firsthours/intro.asp.)

Template messages have been created for chemical and radiological events, suicide bombings and all of the category A biological agents, including anthrax. Here, for example, is an excerpt from the message designed for anthrax, the agent used in the 2001 mail attacks that still remain unsolved.

  • Public health officials believe that the spores that cause anthrax disease may have been deliberately released in the xxx area.
  • At this time, we do not know the extent or source of the anthrax release. Local, state, and federal officials, including HHS, FBI, and Homeland Security, are working together. Updated announcements will be made as soon as these officials know more.
  • Anthrax disease is not known to spread from person to person so people do not have to avoid contact with one another.
  • Based on what we know now, only those people who were in xxx area on xxx date are at risk for getting sick.
  • There are treatments for anthrax. Treatment should start as soon as possible after exposure to anthrax.
  • HHS is working to get treatments to the people who need them.
  • We have challenges ahead, and we are working to find out more about this outbreak. By staying informed and following instructions from health officials, you can protect yourself, your family, and the community against this public health threat.