Biosurveillance, at least for the Defense Department, is the process of gathering, integrating, analyzing and communicating a range of information that relates to health threats for people, animals and even plants, to help protect troops worldwide, and to increase global health security.
Such advance knowledge comes from monitoring the environment, monitoring medical and clinical disease reporting worldwide, monitoring the many networks established for collecting and distributing disease information, and most recently monitoring social media and online services for crowd-sourced infectious disease news.
The planet’s largest outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa is the latest example of how an infectious disease in one area can become a major international security issue.
Countries have reported 17,551 cases so far and 6,202 deaths from Ebola, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
Preparing for Threat Events
“We work with a lot of interagency partners because [biosurveillance] is a big mission space, it’s not something any single agency can cover all on its own,” Dr. Ronald K. Hann Jr., director of research and development in DTRA’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, told DoD News during a recent interview.
“We work with DARPA and some of our other interagency partners,” he added, “to make sure we’re really covering biosurveillance in the country and overseas, to see if there are events we need to be aware of and how to prepare [if] we have to respond to any kind of crisis.”