Why Global Health Security Is an Emergency

In June 2012, the world missed a deadline, without fanfare and without public outcry: Eighty percent of countries failed to meet the global timeline to be prepared to battle biological threats like Ebola.

Two years, thousands of lives, and billions of dollars later, most countries still don’t have in place all the capacity they need to prevent Ebola from spreading or other biological threats from igniting. Consequently, we don’t have in place the global system we need — the smoke alarm — to alert us when an outbreak flares.

The United States developed and launched the Global Health Security Agenda to establish urgently the system required to prevent, detect, and rapidly extinguish outbreaks before they become epidemics, starting in the most vulnerable nations. This lack of preparedness is an emergency — it extends beyond West Africa, and we have asked Congress for the funding we need to start now in the most vulnerable nations.

More than a decade has passed since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cost the global economy an estimated $40 billion, and the anthrax attacks sowed fear, infected 22 people, killed 5, and incurred another billion dollars in clean-up costs. Five years have passed since the global H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009 killed hundreds of thousands of people. Yet the countries of West Africa and many other developing nations still do not have the basic tools required to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to Ebola and other disease threats before they spread.

Even as Ebola ravages West Africa, the world is simultaneously battling deadly outbreaks of plague, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and avian influenza, and we have seen Marburg and Lassa fever flare. We also remain concerned about the continued threat posed by bioterrorism and unsecured deadly pathogens around the world. We must act now.

Source: www.whitehouse.gov

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BIO: Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense Will Provide Crucial Guidance to Strengthen Preparedness against Devastating Threats | Business Wire

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today marks the inaugural meeting of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, a bipartisan panel co-chaired by former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Panelists include former Senator Tom Daschle, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former US Homeland Security Advisor Kenneth Wainstein, and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President and CEO and former Representative Jim Greenwood. The study will be directed by Dr. Robert Kadlec, former special assistant to the President for homeland security and senior director for biological defense policy in the White House Homeland Security Council.

“It is clearly necessary to assess our current biodefense capabilities and readiness to respond to such threats.”

The Panel will identify and recommend changes to U.S. policy and law to strengthen national biodefense and preparedness while optimizing resource investments with the goal of issuing a report in the spring of 2015.

“The efforts of this panel could not be more timely, as our nation continues to face growing challenges and threats from abroad, including infectious diseases such as Ebola and terrorist groups who have voiced a desire to obtain chemical and biological weapons,” said BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood. “It is clearly necessary to assess our current biodefense capabilities and readiness to respond to such threats.”

“I look forward to working with panel co-chairs Senator Lieberman and Governor Ridge and my fellow panelists in the coming months as we hear from experts representing the spectrum of biodefense stakeholders to identify opportunities to improve our preparedness.”

Source: www.businesswire.com

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Today’s Document from the National Archives – Bioterrorism in 1775

During the seige of Boston in the early part of the American Revolution, George Washington sent this letter to Congress in which he passed along information he had heard from a sailor: that British General William Howe was sending people out from Boston who had been deliberately infected with smallpox so that they might pass on the disease to the Americans surrounding the city. After seeing an increased number of cases in those leaving the city, Washington came to believe that smallpox was indeed “a weapon of Defence they Are useing against us.”

Source: www.archives.gov

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