TUESDAY, Dec. 12, 2017 -- Emergency medical workers are trained to handle a wide range of traumas and disasters, but they aren't prepared to deal with a nuclear attack, a new study reports.
There are concerns about the risk of nuclear warfare due to rising tensions between the United States and North Korea. So University of Georgia researchers decided to assess the readiness of medical professionals to respond after such an attack.
The investigators analyzed survey responses from more than 400 emergency medical workers in the United States and Japan, and found that more than half said they had not received any formal education on radiation-related health issues.
Many mistakenly believed that the immediate need after a Hiroshima-sized nuclear explosion would be thermal burns. In fact, more patients would require treatment for lacerations, the study authors said.
"I was not surprised that the responses from the emergency medical community were relatively poor in terms of knowledge and attitudes, because that's what you get with radiation -- myths versus reality," said study author Cham Dallas. He is director of the Institute for Disaster Management at the University of Georgia.
The study also found that a nuclear bomb attack was the emergency most likely to make medical providers unwilling to come to work.
"What we found was that medical personnel were actually more afraid of radiation than they were of biological or chemical events," Dallas said in a university news release.
The study was published recently in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
The findings suggest that emergency medical providers have the same fear and misunderstanding about nuclear events as the general public. This is likely because most providers have no firsthand experience with such situations, Dallas said.
"The interesting thing is these are tough characters. These are people who see trauma and death all the time," he said. "They're tough, but not with radiation."More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on radiation emergencies.
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