NEW YORK – Americans looking for easy-to-understand information on biological terror threats now have a good resource at their fingertips, and the author hopes it becomes much more than simply a coffee table book.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the chamber's only doctor, last year published the book When Every Moment Counts. It details "what you need to know about bioterrorism," and is aimed at the everyday American looking for more information on anthrax, plague, smallpox and other possible threats, as well as what people can do to protect themselves against them.
"My dream is to have the book sitting on your nightstand or maybe in your kitchen next to the telephone, available to answer that specific question that flies through your mind at any time of the day," Frist wrote in the introduction.
Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, became the spokesman for Congress after letters laced with anthrax were sent to several news outlets and lawmakers in the fall of 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was contacted by thousands of people seeking answers and advice about how to keep their families safe.
"It became clear that there was a lack of information available to the public. To make matters worse, the information that did exist was often contradictory and difficult to understand," Frist said in an e-mail interview with Foxnews.com. "I wanted to empower Americans with information to protect themselves and their families against a potential bioterrorist attack.
"Writing When Every Moment Counts was a lesson in how to communicate a complicated issue like bioterrorism in a way that we can all understand. In these turbulent times, helping people feel secure is absolutely critical."
People from all facets of society also gave the book rave reviews.
"I think it's quite useful -- it's very constructive," David Siegrist, director of studies for countering biological terrorism at the Potomac Institute, told Foxnews.com.
"Apropos the terrorism concerns of the times, an easy-to-read, how-and-when-to book that will also lessen anxiety and prevent panic; the best advice I have read," former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said in his review.
"Senator Frist has expertly focused his skills and knowledge both as a physician and as a congressional leader to give us a book that belongs in every home," wrote Dr. Antonia Novella, former U.S. surgeon general and current New York state commissioner of health.
"With this important book, Senator Bill Frist has made another major contribution to the nation's preparedness for bioterrorism," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "It can serve as a guide for every family on the actions they can take to meet the challenge of bioterrorism."
Even U2 lead singer Bono had a ringing endorsement.
"Sound science and smart medicine by a man who has practiced it. ... Everything we wish we didn't have to know, in case we need to know it," he said.
Siegrist said that one of the things he admired about the book was the chapter entitled "Safe at Home: a Family Survival Guide."
This 27-page chapter covers topics such as "What is bioterrorism?", "When the nation is put on 'high' alert, what specific actions should I take?", "When I'm in public, what should I look for?" and "Where should my family go if there's a bioterrorist attack?"
There is also information on what types of gas masks to buy, decontamination techniques and how to deal with the stress and anxiety in a state of high alert.
"There is no reason for paralysis in our everyday lives, and clearly no cause for panic … but there is good reason for every American, young and old, to know much more about what in these times might confront them," Frist writes.
The chemical warfare section says signs that a chemical attack has occurred would appear within minutes or hours, and the first indications may be distinct odors, colored residues and dead insects or animals. In the case of a biological attack, however, the effects may not be seen or felt for days or weeks, and there are typically no environmental indicators "such as dead birds falling out of the sky," Frist writes.
The book details various nerve and blister agents, and cites hydrogen cyanide as another chemical to be aware of. Easy to make by mixing salt and a strong acid, this substance can be extremely toxic in large doses. Hydrogen cyanide was spiked into Tylenol in the United States in 1982 and caused rampant panic. The scare led to the development of tamper-resistant packaging.
There is also a chapter on threats to the nation's food and water supply, as well as agroterrorism -- the use of biological weapons against animals and crops.
The high fatality rate, combined with the ease with which a terrorist could obtain a harmful organism such as salmonella or E. Coli, feed the fear that the nation's food supply is a likely target. Other foodborne diseases include brucellosis, listeriosis and vibrio vulnificus.
Agroterrorist threats include mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease and others that can be spread mainly by consuming contaminated meat.
Frist recommends that the United States improve its intelligence-gathering capabilities, track down missing or undisclosed bioterror weapons in foreign countries and gain tighter control of these substances here at home.
"Today, we remain highly vulnerable," Frist writes. "It's not that we're unprepared. It's that we're underprepared.
"We can't lose sight of the fact that in our federal, state, local, and private health systems, we have all the pieces we need to wage an effective defense against bioterrorism. We just need to coordinate those pieces in a seamless way."
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee last month began handing out copies to state health officials there.
"Everyone has concerns about bioterrorism," said Vicky Gregg, CEO-elect for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. "It's our hope that with the proper information, some fears can be alleviated, and that we, as a state, can better prepare to detect and respond to the threat."
While Frist told Foxnews.com he has no plans for another book at this time, "I recognize that we're learning more and more everyday.
"The best way that I can serve the American people is to help the president in the war against terror."