President Bush Approves New Bioterrorism Preparedness Directive
President Bush on April 21 approved a directive that "aims to improve coordination among" offices and agencies in preventing a bioterrorist attack, the New York Times reports. The plan directs the Department of Homeland Security to:
- Establish a National Biosurveillance Group to collect and assess all relevant information about potential threats against the nation;
- Perform a biological "net assessment" every four years evaluating the effectiveness of existing biodefenses;
- Conduct a national risk assessment every two years evaluating new biological threats;
- Provide all assessments to the Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, CDC, FBI and "numerous other agencies";
- Expand international efforts to prevent biological material from reaching terrorists (Miller, New York Times, 4/28); and
- Develop an "early-warning system" to detect the intentional release of any harmful biological material into the water supply.
Tara O'Toole, chief executive of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a former assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration, had not seen the directive but said she would be "disappointed if there was not a very strong emphasis on the urgent need to improve capacity to respond to epidemics." She added, "The government needs to engage hospitals in responding to sudden floods of very sick people." Jerome Hauer, a former assistant health secretary for public health emergency preparedness, said the directive is "critical to the nation's defense against bioterrorism," and threat information integration efforts are "particularly crucial," the Times reports (New York Times, 4/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.