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Protect the Mailman!

October 8, 2008

In a really cool bit of news out of HHS, last week, it was announced that HHS has approved using mail carriers as a means of distributing antibiotics in the event of a bioterrorist attack, such as an anthrax dispersal. Given the relativity short incubation period of anthrax, this could potentially be a great way to stem the number of deaths and people stricken by the spores. I mean, think about it, they deliver literally tons of mail to nearly every household in the country every day. Adding a small bottle of antibiotics to their sacks is but a small burden, and these are the folks who do distribution best. Even getting one bottle of pills into each household will give health departments time to set up their prophylactic counter-measures, and head off what would surely be rioting.

And what does that mean for those mail carriers walking their beats with anthrax falling on their shoulders? Well, that’s the really cool part. HHS has approved pre-positioning antibiotics in the houses of each of the volunteer mail carriers. Pop a pill or two, and start working.

Two summers ago (man, I’ve been blogging too long), Philadelphia was the second city to participate in a drill testing this method of distribution, check out what I said about it then.

The second thing that HHS released was new liability protections:

for activities related to developing, manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, dispensing, administering and using anthrax countermeasures in preparation for, and in response to a potential anthrax attack. The action is meant to protect retail stores, pharmacies and other businesses that help deliver and distribute medicines.

Now, this part is the part that can be a bit problematic. I’m not saying it is, and none of the news articles get into it very much, but when addressing questions of liability (read: who’s to blame), one of two things happen. One, somebody gets the blame for something terrible; and two, nobody gets the blame and victims are double victimized. Hopefully HHS has addressed this part with clarity, patience and lots of buy-in. Because the only thing worse than either of the two problems above is when everybody starts pointing fingers at each other in the aftermath.

In the meantime, kudos to all of the partners, this is a great leap forward in emergency prophylaxis distribution planning.

Photo credit: fling93

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