What to Do After a Chemical or Biological Attack
What To Do After A Chemical Attack
Immediate symptoms of exposure to chemical agents may include blurred vision, eye irritation, difficulty breathing and nausea. A person affected by a chemical or biological agent requires immediate attention by professional medical personnel.
- If medical help is not immediately available, decontaminate yourself and assist in decontaminating others. Decontamination is needed within minutes of exposure to minimize health consequences. (However, you should not leave the safety of a shelter to go outdoors to help others until authorities announce it is safe to do so.) The best protection against a chemical or biological attack would come from being prepared and getting quick medical attention.
- Use extreme caution when helping others who have been exposed to chemical agents:
Remove all clothing and other items in contact with the body. Contaminated clothing normally removed over the head should be cut off to avoid contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth. Put into a plastic bag if possible. Decontaminate hands using soap and water. Remove eyeglasses or contact lenses. Put glasses in a pan of household bleach to decontaminate.
- Remove all items in contact with the body.
- Flush eyes with lots of water.
- Gently wash face and hair with soap and water; then thoroughly rinse with water.
- Decontaminate other body areas likely to have been contaminated. Blot (do not swab or scrape) with a cloth soaked in soapy water and rinse with clear water.
- Change into uncontaminated clothes. Clothing stored in drawers or closets is likely to be uncontaminated.
- If possible, proceed to a medical facility for screening.
What To Do After A Biological Attack
In many biological attacks, people will not know they have been exposed to an agent. In such situations, the first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by an agent exposure, and you should seek immediate medical attention for treatment.
In some situations, like the anthrax letters sent in 2001, people may be alerted to a potential exposure. If this is the case, pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand. Again, it will be important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems. If your skin or clothing comes in contact with a visible, potentially infectious substance, you should remove and bag your clothes and personal items and washyourself with warm soapy water immediately. Put on clean clothes and seek medical assistance.
For more information, visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.