ATLANTA, April 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. working group made recommendations for medical and public health professionals if botulinum toxin is used as a biological weapon against civilians.
Dr. Stephen S. Arnon of the Infant Botulism Treatment and Prevention Program and colleagues at the California Department of Health Services, Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Bureau of Communicable Disease at the New York City Health Department, Science Applications International Corp., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Infection Control Advisory Network Inc. and Office and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services consulted studies from 1960 to March 1999 concerning use of botulinum toxin as a bioweapon.
The literature was reviewed, and opinions were sought from the working group and other experts on diagnosis and management of botulism.
An aerosolized or food-borne botulinum toxin weapon would cause acute symptoms that would typically present 12 to 72 hours after exposure. Effective response to a deliberate release of botulinum toxin will depend on timely clinical diagnosis, case reporting and epidemiological investigation.
"Persons potentially exposed to botulinum toxin should be closely observed, and those with signs of botulism require prompt treatment with antitoxin and supportive care that may include assisted ventilation for weeks or months," the researchers wrote in the study. "Treatment with anti-toxin should not be delayed for microbiological testing."
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.