Vigilance key to preventing bioattack, expert says

Biological attacks are a global concern, Dr. Tevi Troy told a NATO Parliamentary Assembly hosted by Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., because they can easily spread far and wide, bringing horrific damage beyond their intended target.

"I think the terrorists know that," Dr. Troy, a former HHS Deputy Secretary who oversaw a government entity responsible for healthcare and emergency preparedness with a $700 billion budget and over 67,000 employees, said.

To combat bioattacks, Dr. Troy said that the United States is employing several defense strategies.

"The first is vigilance. We have made it part of our defense efforts," Dr. Troy said. "It's something that we actively think about."

The second strategy is research, which allows for the constant creation of new forms of defense to defeat even the worst bioagents that terrorists might employ.

At the same time, however, Dr. Troy warned that vigilance is needed at research facilities.

"We need to be aware of the security and surveillance at research facilities - both government and non-government - that can weaponize bioagents," Dr. Troy said.

"The third strategy is general preparedness," Dr. Troy said. "Being prepared and having a civil defense apparatus to approach the issues is extremely important.

An adaptable system is also in place to address threats as they appear. The system utilizes strategies that allow the United States to prepare, distribute and educate people for all events in the same manner.

Dr. Troy said that, in addition to the prevention strategies in place, it is also important to get intelligence agencies involved.

"Using them to help detect and prevent attacks is important," Dr. Troy said. "They can help get real time information, allowing us to deploy countermeasures at a time when they will still be effective.

"We need to make sure that we have agencies to anticipate trends and threats in biological warfare from a scientific perspective and from a psychological perspective.

"It's important to know the enemy, because that's the first step in making preparations to prevent an attack."