Law enforcement and public health response to bioterrorism in USA

Global Green USA’s Security and Sustainability Programme held a discussion entitled “Joint Law Enforcement and Public Health Response to Bioterrorism” on 14 July.

Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Kristine A. Beardsley from the Bioterrorism Prevention Programme in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate spoke about her programme, which coordinates the development of countermeasures, tripwire initiatives, and response policies that aim to prevent, detect, or assist in the response to a bioterrorism incident or event.
The discussion marked the fourth meeting dedicated to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) 2010 Intersessional Topic. The 2006 Sixth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) decided to hold four sets of annual meetings from 2007 to 2010 ahead of the 2011 Seventh Review Conference. Each set of annual meetings includes a one-week Meeting of Experts, followed by a one-week Meeting of States Parties.
The upcoming 2010 meetings of experts and States Parties will discuss and promote effective action on the provision of assistance and coordination with relevant organizations upon request by any State Party in the case of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons. This includes improving national capabilities for disease surveillance, detection and diagnosis, and public health systems.
In her Address to the Annual Meeting of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, Under Secretary of State Ellen O. Tauscher suggested that the BTWC should become the premier forum for discussion of the full range of biological threats, including bioterrorism, and mutually agreeable steps States can take for risk management. She declared that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have developed best practices and guides on the conduct of joint criminal and epidemiological investigations of suspected intentional biological threats or incidents. The Under Secretary of State promised to bring CDC and FBI experts to share their experience in more detail at the August Experts Meeting in Geneva.
As an introductory note to the discussion, Ms. Marina Voronova-Abrams stressed the need for closer relationships between health and security communities in order to achieve, sustain and improve international capacity to respond to outbreaks of disease, whether deliberate or natural. She briefed the audience on current national and international efforts towards that goal. Thus, since 2005 Interpol has held regional training workshops on bioterrorism in Chile, Oman, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine, and the Netherlands. Recently the U.S. Government assisted in organising the Southern Caucasus Bioshield 2010 Tabletop Exercise. Some countries, including Israel, engage in regular biannual or annual biopreparedness trainings.
In her presentation SSA Beardsley defined the goals of public health and law enforcement during a large-scale biological incident, provided key elements for planning, prevention and response during such an event. She also highlighted the benefits of working in partnership and the critical elements for achieving common goals, securing dangerous pathogens, establishing information sharing protocols and procedures, and conducting joint training.
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