NLM tackles bioterrorism concerns

Knowing that the current anthrax scare has people looking everywhere for information about chemical and biological warfare, the National Library of Medicine has developed new Web sites and updated existing ones to provide the most up-to-date information on those subjects.

MedLineplus, which has extensive information from the National Institutes of Health and other trusted sources on about 500 diseases and conditions, recently added 23 new interactive health tutorials, including one on anthrax.

In response to the public outcry for information, MedLineplus last week also added another entry on anthrax and one on smallpox, said Bob Mehnert, director of the NLM Office of Communication and Public Liaison.

NLM's chemical warfare site, www.sis.nlm.nih.gov/Tox/ChemWar.html, which was originally launched in August 2000, provides information, references and links to a variety of resources on chemical warfare agents and their effects on human health, said George Hazard, a chemist at the NLM.

Hazard said that site was also updated last week with some new references including:

* The State Department's chemical and biological warfare fact sheet.

* The Environmental Protection Agency's counterterrorism site.

* The EPA's Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office site.

* The Justice Department's Office for Domestic Preparedness site.

* The Federation of American Scientists' Special Weapons Primer site.

The NLM site includes a brief description of the four major types of chemical warfare agents: blood, blister/vesicant, nerve and pulmonary.

The chemical warfare site does not include any information about anthrax, but that is because it specializes in chemical and toxicological data, Hazard said. However, as more research is done, anthrax information might be included in the future, he said.

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