Testimony: Bio-terrorist threat is real

July 17, 2008 at 8:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- A biological terrorist attack in the United States remains a threat, but new programs are enhancing readiness, according to congressional testimony.

The House Committee on Homeland Security heard testimony Wednesday from officials at the Office of Health Affairs who discussed the implementation of the Homeland Security Presidential Directive biodefense strategy.

According to a joint statement released by Robert Hooks, Eric Myers and Jeffrey Stiefel from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Health Affairs, the United States is under a constant risk of a major biological event that could lead to massive loss of life and a crippling of infrastructure and resources, the DHS reported.

Officials say it is unlikely security authorities would have any warning prior to an impending bioterrorist attack and that constructing a biological weapon does not require a lot of technical know-how.

"As such, it is incredibly difficult to predict and prevent a biological attack from taking place," the statement said.

Officials say the focus of counter-bioterrorism efforts have been through the BioWatch program and the development of technologies capable of early detection if an event should occur. Additional focus has been on the National Bio-surveillance Integration Center, which enables an effective response to an attack in order to reduce its impact.

"The challenge of detecting an invisible footprint of an impending bio-terrorist plot and preventing an attack or the emergence of a pandemic is daunting. That is why DHS is taking the approach of enhancing early detection systems and building a national bio-surveillance capability for situational awareness," the statement said.

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