Some of the nation's top environmental health officials, bioterrorism specialists and waterborne disease experts will discuss waterborne disease and water terrorism issues during a one-day conference hosted by the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM). Also sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Water Works Association and American Medical Association, Waterborne Disease and Acts of Water Terrorism: The New Role of the Physician as Front-line Responder, will be held June 4, 2003, at ACPM's headquarters in Washington, DC.
Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health, and James J. James, MD, DrPH, director of the American Medical Association's Center for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response, will deliver keynote addresses. The conference will provide critical information and resources for practicing physicians, public health officials, and other front-line health providers whose roles are essential in recognizing outbreaks of waterborne disease and responding to the threat of intentional biological and chemical contamination of water.
Misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis of waterborne disease by the medical community can result in significant death and disease, particularly in populations at increased risk of exposure to water contaminants," according to Dr. Patricia Meinhardt, conference chair and author of the ACPM-sponsored physician on-line waterborne disease reference guide (www.WaterHealthConnection.org ). The conference is particularly timely given the growing threats to national security and the need for practicing healthcare providers to recognize unusual disease patterns and early warning signs that may result from biological or chemical agents used as covert weapons during intentional contamination of water reserves. Dr. Meinhardt notes that "practicing physicians, for the most part, are poorly prepared to detect biological and chemical contamination of water and may not be adequately trained to respond appropriately to natural, man-made, or terrorist events."
The conference will feature an overview of water contamination as a public health threat, specific water terrorism resources for physicians and other providers, and the increasing importance of the physician's role in the public health system in the face of potential terrorist threats. More than 50 leaders from medical societies, public health agencies, academic institutions, and industry are expected to attend and discuss strategies to disseminate readiness training for acts of water terrorism to physicians and other health care providers around the country.