WHO Report Outlines Bioterrorism Risks
The World Health Organization has "rushed" out a draft of a new report that found terrorists could kill millions with biological or chemical attacks, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. According to the WHO report, advances in technology may allow terrorist groups to launch "large-scale attacks" with poisons or diseases "almost anywhere." The report, titled "Health Aspects of Biological and Chemical Weapons," recommended a "coordinated response" against bioterrorism, warning that biological attack could "easily overwhelm" the health care system of a single nation. "The magnitude of possible impacts on civilian populations of their use or threatened use obliges governments both to seek prevention and to prepare response plans," the report said. David Heymann, WHO's executive director for communicable diseases, said that an "outbreak" resulting from a biological attack in a large city with a large airport could spread disease worldwide. However, he urged nations to develop a "balanced response" to bioterrorism attacks. The report also asked nations to support U.N. treaties that ban biological and chemical weapons (Koppel, AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/25).
Meanwhile, BioPort Corp., which manufactures an anthrax vaccine for the U.S. military, said that the company may establish a "national stockpile" to defend against anthrax attacks, the Wall Street Journal reports. The FDA has approved the vaccine only for those at "high risk of exposure," and military personnel at risk from a biological attack by "hostile forces" have used the vaccine "almost exclusively." However, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, BioPort has received "a large number of requests" from civilians for the vaccine. Robert Myers, BioPort's chief scientific officer, said that the company has discussed a plan to establish a national stockpile, but declined to comment on whether the discussions included a government agency. The Journal reports that the CDC referred questions on potential negotiations with BioPort to HHS, which declined comment. However, Myers said, "We stand ready at a moment's notice to do everything we can to make maximum doses ... in the event that the country moves forward in its desire to create a national stockpile." He did not comment on the number of doses of the vaccine that BioPort could manufacture or "how quickly the task could be done." Before the Sept. 11 attacks, BioPort had asked the FDA to certify a new manufacturing facility with "expanded capacity" (Johannes, Wall Street Journal, 9/25).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.