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Pharmacists need to distinguish between "biological weapons" and "biological agents". Biological weapons are specific formulations ready for deployment and are not of as great a concern to the pharmacist as biological agents. Biological agents, viruses and bacteria which can be cultivated, are still in place. Viral agents which are of great concern to the pharmacy profession include: Smallpox virus, Marburg virus, Lassa virus, Junin virus and others. When pharmacist talk about bacterial agents, we mean plague, anthrax, tularemia, Glanders, and fungi.

Compounding the problems with the major bacterial agents is the fact that when flu season begins which is fast approaching, many people may confuse their symptoms with anthax infection and rush to their hospital and/or physician to get checked...possibly overwhelming emergency rooms.

One of the problems in the recent anthrax scare is the overprescribing of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin which has become the drug of choice to treat anthrax. Antibiotics should not be prescribed to people who are trying to ward off anthrax unless public health officials confirm that person has been exposed to the bacteria. Pharmacists and physicians are feeling pressure from nervous patients who want a prescription, either to take the drug now or have it on hand in case of future exposure. It is important that pharmacists counsel patients because of anxiety, excessive fear, depression - all of which are symptoms that one would expect, given the national trauma the country has gone through.

Antibiotics such as Ciprofloxacin are powerful medicines that with proper use may be bad for your patient's health resulting in antibiotic resistance (visit website:

There is a great need for the American Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) to convene a task force of public health experts and pharmacists nationwide. Such a task force would pool public health resources and pharmacies and coordinate a rapid response to bioterrorism attacks anywhere in the country.

After a task force has been convened, pharmacists need to develop a well defined system to train pharmacists in emergency care and bioterrorism. An entire generation of pharmacists have no idea what anthrax is, what smallpoxis, and how to deal with them.

How will you, your family and your pharmacy survive emergencies and bioterrorism? The answer often depends on how well you prepare beforehand.

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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12