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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Guidance for Protecting Responders’ Health During the First Week Following A Wide-Area Aerosol Anthrax Attack

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have collaborated with the Department of Labor’s OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency on a federal interagency effort to educate first responders on protective actions they should take in the event of a wide-area anthrax release.
The product of their collaboration is a document, “Guidance for Protecting Responders’ Health during the First Week Following a Wide-Area Aerosol Anthrax Attack,” which focuses on a specific scenario of a large-scale aerosol anthrax release in a major U.S. city and the immediate post-attack environment.  This September 2012 document is now available for public use and reference.
This guidance provides recommendations for protecting personnel responding to a wide-area anthrax attack from developing anthrax as a result of exposure to aerosolized anthrax spores and for minimizing the amount of exposure in the first week of a response. This guidance was requested by responders because the nature of their work may put them at higher risk of exposure when they are asked to enter contaminated areas and when their duties require them on an ongoing and repeated basis to interact with the environment in ways that may increase exposure. Protective measures include the same medical countermeasures (i.e., drugs, vaccine) that would be made available to the general population as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), and other possible work practices based on their job tasks.
This guidance reflects the current understanding of the unique environment that would be expected during the first week of a wide-area anthrax release, and is expected to evolve with changes to our understanding regarding exposure risk, scientific developments, and availability of new environmental monitoring techniques. This guidance is intended to support ongoing planning and preparation efforts, as well as to lay the basis for plans to protect all individuals who may respond. This planning guidance will be refined as the evidence base for determining exposure risk and the efficacy of protective measures is strengthened.

Anthrax Responder Guidance

Responders, Clinicians and Practitioners

  • This page last reviewed: October 25, 2012