Analysis shows preparedness is key to containing bioterror and pandemics

A recent analysis of the risks posed by bioterrorism or a potential pandemic states that the chances of either occurring are very low and the key to containing them is preparedness, communication and science.

Rebecca Keller of Stratfor says media coverage of pathogens such as H5N1, a new SARS-like virus and drug-resistant tuberculosis have kept the world informed, but also distorted the threat they pose to the world at large. Keller asserts that media coverage has value, but less as a means of conveying a biothreats impact to the public and more as a way to aid in preparing for potential outbreaks or bioterrorism, according to

She notes that previous pandemics support considerable preparation as the key to outbreak management.

"The general principles of preparedness include stockpiling vaccines, which is done by both the United States and the European Union (although the possibility exists that the vaccines may not be effective against a new virus)," Keller writes, reports. "In the event of an outbreak, the guidelines call for developed nations to share vaccines with developing nations."

In addition to vaccination, other containment strategies include quarantine of potentially exposed individuals, limited travel and additional screenings at places where the virus is most likely to spread, according to

Keller says that while terrorist organizations may have access to rudimentary means of creating a biological weapon, the likelihood of an actual attack occurring is very low. That does not mean, however, that scientific research concerning potential bioweapons needs to be neglected; it only means nations must carefully weigh the potential risks and rewards.

"All of this hinges on the level of preparedness of developed nations and their ability to rapidly exchange information, conduct research and promote individual awareness of the threat," Keller says, reports.