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Expanded Web Site Will Help Primary Care Physicians Diagnose Smallpox, Anthrax, and other Bioterrorism-Related Infections

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Press Release: March 28, 2002

A Web site sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is being expanded to help 265,000 primary care physicians across the country learn how to diagnose and treat rare infections and exposures to bioterrorist agents such as smallpox and anthrax.

"This Web site is an important tool to help doctors identify rare infections that also could be potential bioterrorist threats," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "Expanding the Web site to allow more doctors to access this critical information is an essential part of the nation's bioterrorism preparedness activities."

When it was launched in January, the Web site was the first of its kind to offer free continuing education credits in bioterrorism preparedness to 50,000 hospital-based clinicians. An additional $400,000 in funding is being made available to expand the Web site's educational modules and make them accessible to an additional 265,000 office-based internists, family physicians, pediatricians, and dermatologists, bringing to 315,000 the total number of clinicians who can use the site.

Designed by researchers in the Center for Disaster Preparedness at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) under a contract from AHRQ, the site currently offers five online courses for hospital emergency department physicians, nurses, radiologists, pathologists, and infection control practitioners. Courses cover identification of potential bioterrorist agents and commonly associated syndromes, including smallpox and anthrax.

"Expanding the evidence-based information for primary care physicians is an important step to help doctors be better prepared in the event of another bioterrorist attack," said AHRQ Acting Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D. "This project is one of several in AHRQ's bioterrorism research portfolio that will help clinicians be ready to respond to these potential public health threats."

During the Web site's first 4 months of operation, there were more than 580,000 visits to the site and more than 700 providers earned continuing education credits. There is currently no cost to take the courses, and each offers 1 hour of continuing education credit.

Courses were initially developed by a diverse group of researchers and clinicians representing various fields, including emergency medicine, health administration, public health, nursing and education. Lead investigators for the project are Thomas Terndrup, M.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UAB and Director of UAB's Center for Disaster Preparedness, and Norman Weissman, Ph.D., Professor of Health Services Administration and Medicine and Director of UAB's Center for Outcomes Research and Education.

Editor's Note: To interview one of the investigators, please contact Margaret Tresler, Program Manager, in the UAB Center for Disaster Preparedness at (205) 934-9532 or

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs, (301) 427-1364: Farah Englert, (301) 427-1865 (; Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 (


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