War on Terrorism

Monday, September 28, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, September 28, 2009

Public health's unsung heroes [Puget Sound, WA]
"[...] King County health officials continue to prepare for another outbreak. One of their secret tools is a group of volunteers that act as first responders in a crisis. [...] I'm inside a conference room at the King County office building in downtown Seattle. There's a handful of volunteers getting an introduction to the Public Health Reserve Corps. If they pass the background and license screenings, these citizens will be called up when there's a public health emergency. Mandi George is the program manager. She says it takes a lot of people to get an emergency response operating. Volunteers help in different ways, whether it's distributing antibiotics or setting up emergency care shelters. [...] Volunteers played a big role in late April. That's when the H1N1 virus appeared in King County. [...] Dr. Robert Smith was one of the volunteers on the other end of the hotline [setup for the emergency]. He gave advice to health care providers on how to handle lab work for patients with flu–like symptoms. The Public Health Reserve Corps is made up of medical professionals like Dr. Smith. But half of its volunteers are also people with no health care background. [...] Basically, anyone who's 18 years or older may apply." (Radio transcript from KUOW, WA; 28Sep09; Ruby de Luna)

IOM [Institute of Medicine] issues guidance for disaster prep
"Consistency is the major theme of new guidance from the Institute of Medicine for implementing standards of care during a flu pandemic or any other crisis that causes healthcare resource shortages. The H1N1 influenza pandemic underscores the need for such planning, according to the IOM committee that developed the guidance, but the advice applies to preparations for any major disaster, whether it's pervasive, such as an infectious disease outbreak, or catastrophic like an earthquake. [...] they acknowledged that during a crisis that limits resources, certain situations will require the ethically-justified allocation of resources to those who will most benefit. The guidance represents a preliminary recommendation from the committee, which was chaired by Lawrence Gostin, JD, of Georgetown University Law Center, and included 14 other prominent figures in public health, law, and ethics. The committee found that some states have already starting developing protocols dealing with crisis standards of care, although 'many states have only just begun to address this urgent need.' [...] Kristi Koenig, MD, director of public health preparedness at the University of California Irvine, said broad guidance like this is helpful in sparking dialogue among healthcare professionals and the public about how to handle crises." (Medpage Today; 28Sep09; Todd Neale)

Expert [Joseph Michael]: anthrax spore coatings not unique
"A microscopy expert [Joseph Michael of Sandia National Laboratory, NM, CA] said there was nothing unique about the silica coating found in the anthrax spores recovered from the 2001 letter attacks. The [...] scientific panel confirmed nothing new but provided the group, convened by the National Academy of Sciences, a glimpse into the investigative science used in the wake of the nation's first major bioterrorism event. 'I think the letter powders are not unique with respect to (silica) and (oxygen) elemental signatures,' Sandia said. He said previous studies have shown the same chemical make up of silica added to dried anthrax. Investigators think the silica was introduced to the dried anthrax spores as a way to weaponize the bacteria by making it airborne longer and easier to inhale. [...] The FBI has yet to close its case but has accused Frederick [MD] resident Bruce Ivins, a researcher at Fort Detrick's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, of processing and mailing the anthrax [spores]. Michael's presentation is part of an 18-month, $880,000 National Academy of Sciences study commissioned by the FBI. [...] Michael studied the powders recovered from letters sent to the Washington offices of Sens. Tom Daschle [D-MD] and Patrick Leahy [D-VT], and the New York Post. He used Scanning Electron and Scanning Transmission Electron microscopes to study the structures of thousands of the irradiated, lifeless spores. Michael said it was clear the silica coating had been added. The same study of the RMR-1029, a flask of liquid Ames strain anthrax investigators think Ivins drew from to create the weaponized powder anthrax, did not contain silica, Michael said." (Frederick News Post; 26Sep09; Adam Mehsudi)

Anthrax [outbreak response] drill hits close to home [York, PA]
"All things considered, Don Aumen was satisfied with a drill to get an antibiotic to treat the deadly effects of anthrax. After maneuvering through a wave of fire policemen, security, medical staff and volunteers, Aumen was given a handful of peppermint Lifesavers, which represented the cure to the deadly powder. Aumen, of Dillsburg, was among the first to test a distribution center and mock drill setup Saturday morning at Northern York County High School. [...] For months, emergency officials have planned for the drill, said Bill Turner, a Carroll Township Emergency Management Agency member and event public information officer. Every conceivable aspect was considered, including security to handle mass hysteria, an information officer to keep people informed, medics to detect the deadly illness, and volunteers to gather information and distribute the antidote. The only twist the drill cannot duplicate is how people would react in an actual emergency. [...] The drill's goal was to get familiar with helpers; understand the delegation of duties, responsibilities and chain of command; and troubleshoot any foreseeable problems, [Bill Hildebrand, point of distribution manager] said. Ideally, it would take 15 minutes for a person to fill out the necessary paperwork, get the right antibiotic and be out the door, he said." (York Daily Record; 26Sep09; Mike Hoover)

Experts disagree over lead agency for labs, classification system
"Federal officials and independent experts this week prodded Congress to consolidate government oversight of the nation's disease research laboratories but offered divergent views about which agency should take the lead role [...] An influx in recent years of billions of dollars for biodefense activities led to rapid expansion of disease research facilities. With that came concerns about accidents and the potential misuse of lethal disease materials. A number of incidents have provided fuel for those worries. The federal government last year levied a $1 million fine against Texas A&M University when it failed to notify authorities that researchers had been exposed to -- and in one case, infected by -- infectious agents. Meanwhile, the FBI last year identified the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax [spore] mailings as a researcher from the Army biodefense site at Fort Detrick, Md. [...] [Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD] said most people would turn to the Homeland Security Department as the 'logical place' to have responsibility over facilities working with disease materials. The lawmaker did not elaborate. When DHS compliance assurance program manager Brandt Pasco said the agency only had authority over the 42 sites it funds, Cardin replied, 'That's clearly inadequate.' That same day Cardin said he would call for legislation to select a lead agency to oversee security measures at high-containment laboratories and establish uniform guidelines for those sites, including background checks of researchers, according to a statement from his office." (Global Security Newswire; 25Sep09; Martin Matishak) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090925_1736.php

Texas A&M works to improve public health in South Texas
"The Texas A&M Health Science Center on Wednesday launched a new Biosecurity and Import Safety Initiative designed to protect the Rio Grande Valley region from the risk of infectious disease, environmental threats and natural disasters. [...] The initiative will be based in the border city of McAllen. Scientists and researchers with Texas A&M will coordinate service, research and education activities in the event of a public health crisis. 'One of the Health Science Center's main objectives with the Biosecurity and Import Safety Initiative will be to increase the likelihood that local public health personnel, health providers and health-related organizations have the tools necessary to immediately recognize emergency situations and, in turn, report potential situations to local and regional public health authorities,' Lillibridge adds. The state will appropriate $1 million over the next two years to establish the groundwork in three major areas: support of public health preparedness for urgent threats; provision of environmental health laboratory services to guard against threats to water and food; and training opportunities for health professionals in McAllen and throughout the Valley region." (Triangle Business News; 23Sep09)

[Honduran president Jose Manuel] Zelaya: Brazilian embassy in Honduras [Tegucigalpa] attacked with gas
"Ousted Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya said he and supporters holed up at the Brazilian Embassy [in Honduran capital Tegucigalpa] were victims of a 'neurotoxic' gas attack Friday morning that caused many people to have nose bleeds and breathing difficulties. An official with Brazil's Foreign Ministry told CNN there was some type of gas used in the area but could not confirm it was a nerve agent. [...] Roberto Micheletti, who was named president after the June 28 coup that removed Zelaya, told [...] that his government did not launch a gas attack on the embassy. [...] Journalists [...] were kept several blocks away from the embassy [...] and could not confirm whether a gas attack had taken place. [...] Dr. Mauricio Castellano [a local public health specialist] took air samples near the embassy after the attack and determined that the gas contained HCN, an abbreviation for hydrogen cyanide [a blood agent]. HCN can cause dryness and burning of the throat, shortness of breath, convulsion, coma and cardiovascular collapse. [...Zelaya] showed photographs at the briefing that he said were of soldiers setting up gas-delivery systems and noise machines in neighboring yards. The United Nations Security Council met Friday morning to discuss Brazil's concern over what is happening at its embassy." (Cable News Network; 25Sep09) http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/25/honduras.president.deposed/

New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg, others press for federal security funds [New York, NY]
"The arrest last week of former coffee vendor Najibullah Zazi on charges of plotting to attack New York City gives added urgency to the city's pleas for federal funding to deter nuclear attacks, Mayor Bloomberg and area lawmakers said Sunday. 'Despite the incredible job the NYPD is doing, our city does remain a prime target for terrorists,' Bloomberg said. 'That's a fact. And so we can always use more resources, more technology and more boots on the ground to keep this city safe.' City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and U.S. Rep. Peter King of Long Island joined the mayor in pressing Congress for $40 million for a program to ring the region with sensors to detect radioactive material. 'With additional funding of $40 million that we're looking for, we'll be able to put in permanent, fixed cameras and radiation detection equipment at all the entry points into Manhattan,' Kelly said, 'and we'll also be able to establish a regional wireless system that will enable all the partners in this program to get notified immediately if in fact radiation material is discovered.' The Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee is considering the act that would fund the program." (Associated Press; 27Sep09; Karen Matthews)

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