This letter to the editor came from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and the Center for Disease Control: "Federal, state, and local agencies are developing plans to detect and respond to bioterrorism. A multifaceted response team for bioterrorist events includes health-care providers and law enforcement, public health, and public safety officials. Since medical examiners and coroners generally work independently from other members of this team, special efforts may be necessary to ensure their inclusion in the planning process. Medical examiners and coroners have state statutory authority to investigate violent, suspicious, sudden, or unexplained deaths, including those due to homicide, trauma, and inapparent or poorly explained causes, such as drugs, toxins, and infectious agents. The role of these medical professionals in bioterrorism response can be twofold: response to a known terrorist attack and surveillance for unusual deaths or clusters of deaths that may represent an undetected attack. These investigators are skilled in preserving medicolegal evidence that may be important for subsequent criminal proceedings and in handling situations that involve mass deaths, as shown by their participation in the investigations of the Oklahoma City bombing, aviation accidents, and heat-related deaths. Medical examiners and coroners may also play an important role in the detection of bioterrorism since they may recognize unusual deaths before health-care providers become involved."
Emerging Infectious Diseases (September-October 2000), v.6 no.5, p.559-560