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Preparing for (another) biological attack

October 07, 2016

This news release was issued on 28-Sept-2016

In the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, five people died from exposure to anthrax-laced letters, and several more were infected. Fifteen years on, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars to fortify the nation's biodefenses against future attacks, but is it enough? The cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, examines whether the U.S. is really ready for another Amerithrax.

Matt Davenport, an associate editor at C&EN, reports that after the 2001 anthrax attacks, first responders had unprecedented opportunities to apply for federal grants to purchase biodefense equipment. Manufacturers obliged by supplying a wide range of instruments with a variety of capabilities. And researchers are continuing to improve detection technology and develop therapeutics to counter potential attacks in the future.

But how would all the pieces fit together in a real-life crisis? The FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first responders and law enforcement have put protocols in place to deal with future biological threats. However, field testing, training, technological capabilities and communications networks vary across jurisdictions. This inconsistency could hobble any future response to a biological attack. To get everyone on the same page, experts are calling for federal standards to ensure that the handling of such emergencies would be rapid and seamless.
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