Rising to the Challenge
Biodefense is not just about offering protection from bioterror attacks; it’s also about being prepared for emerging infectious diseases.
Gary Nabors |
What exactly is biodefense?
The definition of “biodefense” has expanded over the years. Originally, it was limited to the idea of defending against a purposeful biological attack with a conventional infectious agent or toxin on military forces or civilians carried out by nation states, extremist groups, or a “lone wolf.” It is clear now that the term has broadened to include threats from engineered pathogens, emerging infectious diseases, new influenza strains, and even from laboratory accidents. An example of this expanded interpretation can be seen in the US 2018 National Biodefense Strategy, which was recently signed by President Trump.
Though there is, of course, a tremendous focus on defense against conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons, offensive biological weapons remain a credible threat to both civilians and the military. Naturally occurring emerging biological agents, such as new influenza strains, multidrug-resistant bacteria, and viruses that cause diseases, such as MERS, Lassa fever, dengue fever and Nipah also present significant threats to human health in that they have the capacity to quickly incapacitate and/or kill large numbers of people before a viable intervention can be put into place.
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