Topic: The Threat of Bioterrorism
Bio-terrorism is a threat. It’s very, very difficult when you have to prepare for something that might not ever happen. So I have been very much involved in the preparedness for bio-defense by developing vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics for the category A and B agents that are the highest calculated risk by our Homeland Security officials.
And what we’ve done, to try and make that a worthwhile endeavor, is as follows: to use the resources that you would apply to developing these vaccines, and these drugs, and these diagnostics to not only cover infections or microbes that would be deliberately released on the country, but also the broader bio-terrorist. The worst potential bio-terrorist is nature itself.
If you look historically at what’s happened with epidemics, and the influenza pandemic in 1918, the threat of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], the HIV epidemic. So nature does a pretty good job of terrorizing the human civilization.
So if you utilize the resources that you can apply to developing specific countermeasures for agents of high probability of bio-terror, but make that be fungible, as it were, to increasing your capacity to respond to any agent, even those that naturally occur.
So yes it’s a threat. You can never quantitate [sic] how great a threat it is. So why not spend the money not only protecting against the threat of deliberate terror, but also the threat of naturally occurring terror?
There is comfort in that literally, as the weeks and months go by, our preparedness against this gets better and better. There certainly is the possibility that there will be a bio-terror attack. If you’re well prepared and you have the counter measures in place, the impact on people will hopefully be minimal.
I don’t think that people need to look upon this as the end of the world, where we would have a bio-terror attack and we all die. The chances of that are so vanishingly small as to be almost not under consideration; but there is the possibility that people could die or get sick from a bio-terror attack. You can mitigate that. You can lessen the impact of it by doing what we’re literally doing every week and month now. And that is by trying to develop better countermeasures.
Recorded On: July 6, 2007