Occupational physician perceptions of bioterrorism

David A. Sterling*, Bruce Clements, Terri Rebmann, Brooke N. Shadel, Laveta M. Stewart, Robert Thomas, R. Gregory Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The rationale for most preparedness training of healthcare professionals is based on the assumption that most persons infected following a biological incident will present first to emergency departments of acute care facilities or to ambulatory settings such as private physician offices, and such incidences would be recognized, appropriately treated, and reported to the local health departments. However, an alternative first point of contact is industry, a location where workers gather and disperse on a regular and documented basis, and require healthcare. In industry there are health professionals responsible for the health, safety and on-site well-being of the workforce and surrounding community; these professionals are in a position for early recognition, surveillance, and isolation. Targeted education must be provided to these health professionals. To address perceptions of risk and preferred educational delivery methods for bioterrorism and emerging infections-related materials, a survey of occupational physicians was performed during the spring of 2001. Within the 2 months following the September 11 terrorist attack and subsequent anthrax bioterrorism event, and before release of any results from the first survey, a follow-up mail survey was initiated in November 2001. Response rate to the pre- and post-September 11 survey were 58% (n=56) and 33% (n=33), respectively. No significant demographic differences were observed between the respondents of the pre- and post-surveys. Perceptions of likelihood of another bioterrorism event increased between surveys, as would be expected; however, a tendency to believe that it would not happen locally persisted. Even though over 90% of the physicians had received immediate training following September 11, additional training/education needs were demonstrated. Although training and education modules can be designed without information based on the population that can be on the receiving end, it rarely accomplishes its goal. Results from this survey can serve as a base for designing various levels of targeted training and educational material specific to the perceived need, method of obtaining information and the format considered to be most conducive for learning. Potential consequences from lack of bioterrorism preparedness due to low perception of need and threat awareness need to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-134
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 8 Apr 2005


  • Bioterrorism
  • Education delivery
  • Emerging infections
  • Occupational physicians
  • Perceptions


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