European hospitals asked be on standby for Japan's ill

Red Cross worker being checked for radiation exposure Workers in the area are checked for radiation exposure

Five hundred bone marrow transplant centres across Europe are being asked to be on standby to treat Japanese radiation victims if the need arises.

The European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) has alerting its members, which include 3,000 medics in specialist units.

It is unclear how many in Japan might need their help, but the centres have plans and protocols ready to action.

Many were drawn up after the 11 September 2001 terror attacks.

It will be up to each centre to decide whether or not to take on any patients. In the UK there are 55 centres that could potentially help.

The president of the EBMT, Professor Alejandro Madrigal, said: "We are asking centres to tell us their level of response and capacity so we can measure the level of commitment at centres."

Professor Ray Powles, chair of the nuclear accident committee for EBMT, said it may be that between 20 and 30 workers at the nuclear Fukushima plant who are striving to contain the radiation will need treatment.

"It is too early to tell yet, but it is better to be prepared.

"If there was a humanitarian reason it would be something that could be offered.

"We have contacted Japan directly and have also offered our services to them through the World Health Organization.

"It's a logistic exercise.

"We have had training sessions and have a consensus on how to treat people who have been exposed to radiation.

"If workers have been exposed to harmful levels of radiation then we have a few days before they will get ill to plan their treatment.

"They might just need antibiotics or they might need antibiotics and other drugs as well as blood and platelets. It's not that dissimilar to treating leukaemia."

The treatment would largely be supportive care to manage the damaging effects of the radiation exposure. A few may require bone marrow transplants.

Professor Powles stressed that these patients would not pose any radiation risk to others around them.

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