Sep 2018

Revamped US biodefence strategy adds natural disasters and lab accidents

Nature reports the US government has revised its plans for responding to biological threats. On 18 September, the White House released the first US biodefence strategy that spans multiple government agencies. In another first, it includes not only deliberate bioterror threats, but also naturally occurring outbreaks and infectious diseases that escape the lab accidentally. The strategy, unveiled by Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will also evaluate issues such as advances in gene editing that could make it easier for terrorists to engineer dangerous pathogens.

The White House has created a steering committee to coordinate operations in the event of a biological attack or a major disease outbreak, Azar said. His department will lead the panel, whose members will include representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture.

It will be fascinating to see how the cabinet officials led by HHS Secretary Azar, get long as this new committee begins its work.

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