A bioterrorist attack of any kind has the potential to overwhelm a community and, indeed, in the case of smallpox, an entire nation. During such an attack the number of patients requiring hospitalization and specifically critical care is likely to be enormous. Intensivists will be at the forefront of this war and will play an important role in dealing with mass casualties in an attempt to heal the community. A high degree of suspicion and prompt recognition of an event will be required to contain it. Specific knowledge of the possible agents that can be used will be key in managing patients and in estimating the needs of a health care facility and community to deal with the future course of events. Intensivists play various roles aside from the delivery of critical care to the patient in the ICU. These roles include making triage decisions regarding the appropriate use of critical care beds (which automatically dictates how other non-ICU beds are used and managed) and serving as a team member of ethics committees (on such issues as dying, futility, and withdrawal of care). Indeed, intensivists are no strangers to disaster management and have served on the forefront of many . A biologic weapons attack, however, is likely to push this multidimensional nature of the intensivist to the maximum, because such an attack is likely to result in a more homogeneous critically ill population where the number of critical care staff and supplies to treat the victims may be limited. One hopes that such an event will not occur. Sadly, however the events of September 11, 2001, have only heightened the awareness of such a possibility.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine