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A national need is to prepare for and respond to accidental or intentional disasters categorized as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE). These incidents require specific subject-matter expertise, yet have commonalities. We identify 7 core elements comprising CBRNE science that require integration for effective preparedness planning and public health and medical response and recovery. These core elements are (1) basic and clinical sciences, (2) modeling and systems management, (3) planning, (4) response and incident management, (5) recovery and resilience, (6) lessons learned, and (7) continuous improvement. A key feature is the ability of relevant subject matter experts to integrate information into response operations. We propose the CBRNE medical operations science support expert as a professional who (1) understands that CBRNE incidents require an integrated systems approach, (2) understands the key functions and contributions of CBRNE science practitioners, (3) helps direct strategic and tactical CBRNE planning and responses through first-hand experience, and (4) provides advice to senior decision-makers managing response activities. Recognition of both CBRNE science as a distinct competency and the establishment of the CBRNE medical operations science support expert informs the public of the enormous progress made, broadcasts opportunities for new talent, and enhances the sophistication and analytic expertise of senior managers planning for and responding to CBRNE incidents.
One of the biggest medical challenges after the detonation of a nuclear device will be implementing a strategy to assess the severity of radiation exposure among survivors and to triage them appropriately. Those found to be at significant risk for radiation injury can be prioritized to receive potentially lifesaving myeloid cytokines and to be evacuated to other communities with intact health care infrastructure prior to the onset of severe complications of bone marrow suppression. Currently, the most efficient and accessible triage method is the use of sequential complete blood counts to assess lymphocyte depletion kinetics that correlate with estimated whole-body dose radiation exposure. However, even this simple test will likely not be available initially on the scale required to assess the at-risk population. Additional variables such as geographic location of exposure, sheltering, and signs and symptoms may be useful for initial sorting. An interdisciplinary working group composed of federal, state, and local public health experts proposes an Exposure And Symptom Triage (EAST) tool combining estimates of exposure from maps with clinical assessments and single lymphocyte counts if available. The proposed tool may help sort survivors efficiently at assembly centers near the damage and fallout zones and enable rapid prioritization for appropriate treatment and transport. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018; 12: 386–395)
Objective: Hematopoietic syndrome (HS) is a clinical diagnosis assigned to people who present with ≥1 new-onset cytopenias in the setting of acute radiation exposure. The World Health Organization convened a panel of experts to evaluate the evidence and develop recommendations for medical countermeasures for the management of HS in a hypothetical scenario involving the hospitalization of 100 to 200 individuals exposed to radiation. The objective of this consultancy was to develop recommendations for treatment of the HS based upon the quality of evidence.
Methods: English-language articles were identified in MEDLINE and PubMed. Reference lists of retrieved articles were distributed to panel members before the meeting and updated during the meeting. Published case series and case reports of individuals with HS, published randomized controlled trials of relevant interventions used to treat nonirradiated individuals, reports of studies in irradiated animals, and prior recommendations of subject matter experts were selected. Studies were extracted using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. In cases in which data were limited or incomplete, a narrative review of the observations was made. No randomized controlled trials of medical countermeasures have been completed for individuals with radiation-associated HS. The use of GRADE analysis of countermeasures for injury to hematopoietic tissue was restricted by the lack of comparator groups in humans. Reliance on data generated in nonirradiated humans and experimental animals was necessary.
Results: Based upon GRADE analysis and narrative review, a strong recommendation was made for the administration of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor or granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor and a weak recommendation was made for the use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Conclusions: Assessment of therapeutic interventions for HS in humans exposed to nontherapeutic radiation is difficult because of the limits of the evidence.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:202-212)
The hallmark of a successful response to a nuclear detonation will be the resilience of the community, region, and nation. An incident of this magnitude will rapidly become a national incident; however, the initial critical steps to reduce lives lost, save the lives that can be saved with the resources available, and understand and apply resources available to a complex and dynamic situation will be the responsibility of the local and regional responders and planners. Expectations of the public health and health care systems will be met to the extent possible by coordination, cooperation, and an effort to produce as consistent a response as possible for the victims. Responders will face extraordinarily stressful situations, and their own physical and psychological health is of great importance to optimizing the response. This article illustrates through vignettes and supporting text how the incident may unfold for the various components of the health and medical systems and provides additional context for the discipline-related actions outlined in the state and local planners’ playbook.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S73-S88)
Based on background information in this special issue of the journal, possible triage recommendations for the first 4 days following a nuclear detonation, when response resources will be limited, are provided. The series includes: modeling for physical infrastructure damage; severity and number of injuries; expected outcome of triage to immediate, delayed, or expectant management; resources required for treating injuries of varying severity; and how resource scarcity (particularly medical personnel) worsens outcome. Four key underlying considerations are: 1.) resource adequacy will vary greatly across the response areas by time and location; 2.) to achieve fairness in resource allocation, a common triage approach is important; 3.) at some times and locations, it will be necessary to change from “conventional” to “contingency” or “crisis” standards of medical care (with a resulting change in triage approach from treating the “sickest first” to treating those “most likely to survive” first); and 4.) clinical reassessment and repeat triage are critical, as resource scarcity worsens or improves. Changing triage order and conserving and allocating resources for both lifesaving and palliative care can maintain fairness, support symptomatic care, and save more lives. Included in this article are printable triage cards that reflect our recommendations. These are not formal guidelines. With new research, data, and discussion, these recommendations will undoubtedly evolve.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S111-S121)
For efficient and effective medical responses to mass casualty events, detailed advanced planning is required. For federal responders, this is an ongoing responsibility. The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) prepares playbooks with formal, written plans that are reviewed, updated, and exercised regularly. Recognizing that state and local responders with fewer resources may be helped in creating their own event-specific response plans, subject matter experts from the range of sectors comprising the Scarce Resources for a Nuclear Detonation Project, provided for this first time a state and local planner's playbook template for responding to a nuclear detonation. The playbook elements are adapted from DHHS playbooks with appropriate modification for state and local planners. Individualization by venue is expected, reflecting specific assets, populations, geography, preferences, and expertise. This playbook template is designed to be a practical tool with sufficient background information and options for step-by-step individualized planning and response.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S89-S97)
The purpose of this article is to set the context for this special issue of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness on the allocation of scarce resources in an improvised nuclear device incident. A nuclear detonation occurs when a sufficient amount of fissile material is brought suddenly together to reach critical mass and cause an explosion. Although the chance of a nuclear detonation is thought to be small, the consequences are potentially catastrophic, so planning for an effective medical response is necessary, albeit complex. A substantial nuclear detonation will result in physical effects and a great number of casualties that will require an organized medical response to save lives. With this type of incident, the demand for resources to treat casualties will far exceed what is available. To meet the goal of providing medical care (including symptomatic/palliative care) with fairness as the underlying ethical principle, planning for allocation of scarce resources among all involved sectors needs to be integrated and practiced. With thoughtful and realistic planning, the medical response in the chaotic environment may be made more effective and efficient for both victims and medical responders.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S20-S31)
A 10-kiloton (kT) nuclear detonation within a US city could expose hundreds of thousands of people to radiation. The Scarce Resources for a Nuclear Detonation Project was undertaken to guide community planning and response in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation, when demand will greatly exceed available resources. This article reviews the pertinent literature on radiation injuries from human exposures and animal models to provide a foundation for the triage and management approaches outlined in this special issue. Whole-body doses >2 Gy can produce clinically significant acute radiation syndrome (ARS), which classically involves the hematologic, gastrointestinal, cutaneous, and cardiovascular/central nervous systems. The severity and presentation of ARS are affected by several factors, including radiation dose and dose rate, interindividual variability in radiation response, type of radiation (eg, gamma alone, gamma plus neutrons), partial-body shielding, and possibly age, sex, and certain preexisting medical conditions. The combination of radiation with trauma, burns, or both (ie, combined injury) confers a worse prognosis than the same dose of radiation alone. Supportive care measures, including fluid support, antibiotics, and possibly myeloid cytokines (eg, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor), can improve the prognosis for some irradiated casualties. Finally, expert guidance and surge capacity for casualties with ARS are available from the Radiation Emergency Medical Management Web site and the Radiation Injury Treatment Network.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S32-S44)
Objectives: The World Health Organization convened a panel of experts to rank the evidence for medical countermeasures for management of acute radiation syndrome (ARS) in a hypothetical scenario involving the hospitalization of 100 to 200 victims. The goal of this panel was to achieve consensus on optimal management of ARS affecting nonhematopoietic organ systems based upon evidence in the published literature.
Methods: English-language articles were identified in MEDLINE and PubMed. Reference lists of retrieved articles were distributed to conferees in advance of and updated during the meeting. Published case series and case reports of ARS, publications of randomized controlled trials of relevant interventions used to treat nonirradiated individuals, reports of studies in irradiated animals, and prior recommendations of subject matter experts were selected. Studies were extracted using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment Development and Evaluation system. In cases in which data were limited or incomplete, a narrative review of the observations was made.
Results: No randomized controlled trials of medical countermeasures have been completed for individuals with ARS. Reports of countermeasures were often incompletely described, making it necessary to rely on data generated in nonirradiated humans and in experimental animals. A strong recommendation is made for the administration of a serotonin-receptor antagonist prophylactically when the suspected exposure is >2 Gy and topical steroids, antibiotics, and antihistamines for radiation burns, ulcers, or blisters; excision and grafting of radiation ulcers or necrosis with intractable pain; provision of supportive care to individuals with neurovascular syndrome; and administration of electrolyte replacement therapy and sedatives to individuals with significant burns, hypovolemia, and/or shock. A strong recommendation is made against the use of systemic steroids in the absence of a specific indication. A weak recommendation is made for the use of fluoroquinolones, bowel decontamination, loperamide, and enteral nutrition, and for selective oropharyngeal/digestive decontamination, blood glucose maintenance, and stress ulcer prophylaxis in critically ill patients.
Conclusions: High-quality studies of therapeutic interventions in humans exposed to nontherapeutic radiation are not available, and because of ethical concerns regarding the conduct of controlled studies in humans, such studies are unlikely to emerge in the near future.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:183–201)
This article provides practical ethical guidance for clinicians making decisions after a nuclear detonation, in advance of the full establishment of a coordinated response. We argue that the utilitarian maxim of the greatest good for the greatest number, interpreted only as “the most lives saved,” needs refinement. We take the philosophical position that utilitarian efficiency should be tempered by the principle of fairness in making decisions about providing lifesaving interventions and palliation. The most practical way to achieve these goals is to mirror the ethical precepts of routine clinical practice, in which 3 factors govern resource allocation: order of presentation, patient's medical need, and effectiveness of an intervention. Although these basic ethical standards do not change, priority is given in a crisis to those at highest need in whom interventions are expected to be effective. If available resources will not be effective in meeting the need, then it is unfair to expend them and they should be allocated to another patient with high need and greater expectation for survival if treated. As shortage becomes critical, thresholds for intervention become more stringent. Although the focus of providers will be on the victims of the event, the needs of patients already receiving care before the detonation also must be considered. Those not allocated intervention must still be provided as much appropriate comfort, assistance, relief of symptoms, and explanations as possible, given the available resources. Reassessment of patients' clinical status and priority for intervention also should be conducted with regularity.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S46-S53)
Conventional triage algorithms assume unlimited medical resource availability. After a nuclear detonation, medical resources are likely to be particularly limited, suggesting that conventional triage algorithms need to be rethought. To test various hypotheses related to the prioritization of victims in this setting, we developed the model of resource- and time-based triage (MORTT). This model uses information on time to death, probability of survival if treated and if untreated, and time to treat various types of traumatic injuries in an agent-based model in which the time of medical practitioners or materials can be limited. In this embodiment, MORTT focuses solely on triage for surgical procedures in the first 48 hours after a nuclear detonation. MORTT determines the impact on survival based on user-selected prioritization of victims by severity or type of injury. Using MORTT, we found that in poorly resourced settings, prioritizing victims with moderate life-threatening injuries over victims with severe life-threatening injuries saves more lives and reduces demand for intensive care, which is likely to outstrip local and national capacity. Furthermore, more lives would be saved if victims with combined injury (ie, trauma plus radiation >2 Gy) are prioritized after nonirradiated victims with similar trauma.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S98-S110)
The user-managed inventory (UMI) is an emerging idea for enhancing the current distribution and maintenance system for emergency medical countermeasures (MCMs). It increases current capabilities for the dispensing and distribution of MCMs and enhances local/regional preparedness and resilience. In the UMI, critical MCMs, especially those in routine medical use (“dual utility”) and those that must be administered soon after an incident before outside supplies can arrive, are stored at multiple medical facilities (including medical supply or distribution networks) across the United States. The medical facilities store a sufficient cache to meet part of the surge needs but not so much that the resources expire before they would be used in the normal course of business. In an emergency, these extra supplies can be used locally to treat casualties, including evacuees from incidents in other localities. This system, which is at the interface of local/regional and federal response, provides response capacity before the arrival of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and thus enhances the local/regional medical responders' ability to provide life-saving MCMs that otherwise would be delayed. The UMI can be more cost-effective than stockpiling by avoiding costs due to drug expiration, disposal of expired stockpiled supplies, and repurchase for replacement.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;6:408-414)
Resilience after a nuclear power plant or other radiation emergency requires response and recovery activities that are appropriately safe, timely, effective, and well organized. Timely informed decisions must be made, and the logic behind them communicated during the evolution of the incident before the final outcome is known. Based on our experiences in Tokyo responding to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis, we propose a real-time, medical decision model by which to make key health-related decisions that are central drivers to the overall incident management. Using this approach, on-site decision makers empowered to make interim decisions can act without undue delay using readily available and high-level scientific, medical, communication, and policy expertise. Ongoing assessment, consultation, and adaption to the changing conditions and additional information are additional key features. Given the central role of health and medical issues in all disasters, we propose that this medical decision model, which is compatible with the existing US National Response Framework structure, be considered for effective management of complex, large-scale, and large-consequence incidents. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;0:1-10)
Developing a mass-casualty medical response to the detonation of an improvised nuclear device (IND) or large radiological dispersal device (RDD) requires unique advanced planning due to the potential magnitude of the event, lack of warning, and radiation hazards. In order for medical care and resources to be collocated and matched to the requirements, a [US] Federal interagency medical response-planning group has developed a conceptual approach for responding to such nuclear and radiological incidents. The “RTR” system (comprising Radiation-specific TRiage, TReatment, TRansport sites) is designed to support medical care following a nuclear incident. Its purpose is to characterize, organize, and efficiently deploy appropriate materiel and personnel assets as close as physically possible to various categories of victims while preserving the safety of responders. The RTR system is not a medical triage system for individual patients. After an incident is characterized and safe perimeters are established, RTR sites should be determined in real-time that are based on the extent of destruction, environmental factors, residual radiation, available infrastructure, and transportation routes. Such RTR sites are divided into three types depending on their physical/situational relationship to the incident. The RTR1 sites are near the epicenter with residual radiation and include victims with blast injuries and other major traumatic injuries including radiation exposure; RTR2 sites are situated in relationship to the plume with varying amounts of residual radiation present, with most victims being ambulatory; and RTR3 sites are collection and transport sites with minimal or no radiation present or exposure risk and a victim population with a potential variety of injuries or radiation exposures. Medical Care sites are predetermined sites at which definitive medical care is given to those in immediate need of care. They include local/regional hospitals, medical centers, other sites such as nursing homes and outpatient clinics, nationwide expert medical centers (such as cancer or burn centers), and possible alternate care facilities such as Federal Medical Stations. Assembly Centers for displaced or evacuating persons are predetermined and spontaneous sites safely outside of the perimeter of the incident, for use by those who need no immediate medical attention or only minor assistance. Decontamination requirements are important considerations for all RTR, Medical Care, and Assembly Center sites and transport vehicles. The US Department of Health and Human Services is working on a long-term project to generate a database for potential medical care sites and assembly centers so that information is immediately available should an incident occur.