Orlando, FL - The nation's emergency response system faces a significant threat to its ability to handle a crisis because large numbers of people may misattribute physical symptoms related to stress and anxiety to exposure to bioterrorism, Steven E. Locke, M.D., told the American Psychosomatic Society recently.
Locke, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and professor of health sciences and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the threat is greatest when fear of exposure to bioweapons or infectious disease accompanies an actual terrorist event or an outbreak.
"Under such circumstances, there is an urgent need to identify those patients requiring immediate medical care," he said. "This triage assessment could be compromised by having to sort though large numbers of patients seeking urgent care who have had no actual exposure but due to physical symptoms brought on by stress, believe that they are a biologic victim or have become infected."
Locke was the lead author of a report, commissioned by the Center for Disease Control, which addresses this problem and proposes solutions.
The remarks came during the society's annual meeting and marked the end of his one-year term as society president. He continues to serve as a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Harvard Center for Public Health Preparedness and serves on the Board of Health of Wayland, MA.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a major patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.harvard.edu.