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New Web site helps hospital-based doctors and nurses diagnose anthrax, smallpox and other rare infections

A new Web site funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality teaches hospital-based physicians and nurses how to diagnose and treat rare infections and exposures to bioterrorism agents such as anthrax and smallpox. Designed by researchers in the Center for Disaster Preparedness at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) under a contract from AHRQ, the Web site is the first of its kind to offer free continuing education credits in bioterrorism preparedness to clinicians.

The site currently offers five online courses through the UAB Office of Continuing Medical Education for emergency department clinicians, including physicians, nurses, radiologists, pathologists, and infection control practitioners. The Web address is

Courses cover identification of six potential bioterrorism agents and commonly associated syndromes, including anthrax, smallpox, botulism, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic fever, and plague. There is no cost to take the courses, and each course offers 1 hour of continuing education credit.

Courses include case-based scenarios and photos followed by multiple choice questions and answers, according to Margaret Tresler, program manager for UAB's Center for Disaster Preparedness. When users give a wrong answer, they receive an explanation telling why the answer is incorrect. The interactive modules are designed to be easily accessible and user-friendly, keeping in mind that clinicians are busy.

Courses were 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. Improvements to the site are planned.

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