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Federal report looks at children's needs in even tof terrorist attack

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eleven-and-a-half years after America's worst-ever terrorist attack, there are serious questions about how we are positioned to handle another one.

A federal report just out has examined several state and local emergency medical plans, including Chicago's.

A new report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office looks specifically at how the U.S. is prepared in a terrorist attack to treat children. Specifically, how the nation's stockpile of nuclear, biological and chemical counter drugs are suited for children.

The results of the investigation -- based on data from Chicago and six other cities -- is less than encouraging.

Since Sept. 11, Chicago and other cities have rehearsed for the worst-case terror attack scenarios: The release of a deadly germ or detonation of a radiological dirty bomb on a downtown street corner.

The newly commissioned GAO report for Congress looks at what happens after a germ attack or small nuclear blast; and specifically how the stockpile of countermeasure medicine is suited for children.

Chicago and six other cities were studied along with seven American states. The major finding: 40 percent of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures have not been approved for any pediatric use.

That is especially frightening to medical and terrorism experts because, even though children make up just a quarter of the population, they are considered the most vulnerable.

One example: the drug Cipro. A supply inventory is kept in case of a large anthrax or plague attack by terrorists, but it is not intended for use on children.

The GAO report recommends a quick evaluation of what needs to be done to fix this gap in responding to a radiation, nuke or chemical terror attack.

The report doesn't break out Chicago's emergency plans or any other local or state government that was studied. So it is impossible from the GAO investigation to know whether Chicago is worse or better than anywhere else.

Chicago officials have long contended that they are as prepared as possible to handle any kind of an attack.

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