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Hopkins Center For Civilian Biodefense Studies Co-Sponsors Symposium On Medical/Public Health Response To Bioterrorism

With weapons of biological and chemical terrorism in the headlines and firmly on the nation's public agenda, political leaders, physicians, research scientists, as well as law enforcement and intelligence experts will meet Feb. 16 and 17 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott to talk about what to do should bioterrorists launch an assault on civilians in the United States.

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala will give the keynote address.

"This is a timely and urgent agenda," says D.A. Henderson, M.D., the person credited with leading the World Health Organization's successful fight to eradicate smallpox from the world, and director of the new Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies. Henderson has led the call for public and professional awareness of bioterrorism as a serious threat to the civilian population. "Until recently, I had doubts about publicizing the subject because of concern that it might entice someone to try spreading anthrax or some other biological weapon.

However, events of the past two years have made it clear that likely perpetrators already envisage every possible scenario. And recent events in Iraq, Japan and Russia cast an ominous shadow."

The United States, like other nations, is ill prepared to cope with a bioterrorist attack, most experts agree. In fact, it could take days to weeks (depending on the microbe) before physicians or public health officials even realized an attack had been made. The first sign of attack is likely to be people sick or dying in emergency rooms or clinics. Further, some of the most serious biological weapons, such as smallpox, have the capacity to initiate a spreading epidemic of contagious disease that may be difficult to contain.

Henderson says the point of the symposium is not to look for quick fixes, but to marshal the expertise of public health professionals, government officials, intelligence specialists and others in the development of pract
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Contact: Gary Stephenson
gstephenson@jhmi.edu
410-955-5384
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
8-Feb-1999


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