NATO adopts new biological surveillance system

NATO plans to use the Deployment Health Surveillance Capability as an early warning biological surveillance system that could be added to its armed forces for the detection of biological weapons.

The system, patented by the Health Service of the French Army, was created in 2010 in an effort to overcome the challenges of identifying the state of health of forces in the field, epidemics and the effectiveness of preventive measures.

Benjamin Queyriaux, the deputy head of service and epidemiology of the DHSC, said that several experiences in Africa, the Balkans and Afghanistan demonstrated the need for real-time health and threat tracking.

"The requirement for developing a real-time epidemiological surveillance and alert system, which is crucial particularly in the event of a biological attack, dates back to the 2002 Prague Summit," Queyriaux said. "A stocktaking of NATO's capabilities for countering NBC threats shed light on our inability to detect a biological attack for several days."

The DHSC is a branch of the NATO Center of Excellence for Military Medicine. The branch's mission is to contribute to improved protection of NATO's deployed forces against bioterrorist attacks and infectious diseases.

"The aim is not only to identify the epidemics caused by infectious agents released intentionally, but also to detect and manage natural events, such as epidemics of influenza or malaria that occurred in the past," Queyriaux said.

The DHSC is planning to be fully operational in 2013.