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Consortium awarded CDC grant to coordinate national health system 'radar' to catch bioterror events

Boston, MA-October 2, 2002--The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded a $1.2 million grant to a consortium of investigators and health care organizations for a national bioterrorism syndromic surveillance demonstration program, a kind of computer early warning system that initially will sweep, in real time, 20 million ambulatory care patient records in all 50 states for clusters of symptoms associated with bioterror agents.

"Several federal, state, and local organizations, as well as health plans, practice groups, and hospitals, have been developing bioterror-event early detection systems pre- and post-September 11 and the anthrax letter mailings," says the grant's principal investigator Richard Platt, MD, acting chair of the Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention (DACP). "Initially, most bioterrorism-related illnesses have symptoms, like coughing, that can't be distinguished from the flu or other common infections. Therefore, the first sign of a bioterrorism attack might be an increased number of people who call help lines or contact their primary care doctor for these common symptoms. The CDC grant will allow our consortium to coordinate efforts to recognize such increases, building a platform that will also allow other health systems to join."

"The demonstration program will include a rapid response capability to notify public health officials of unusual occurrences as soon as the information becomes available," says Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC. "The results of this project will help us more fully develop systems that extend our capacity to detect and respond to a terrorism attack at the earliest possible moment, while ensuring appropriate care to all patients."

The consortium includes Massachusetts-based Harvard Pilgrim, a managed health care organization through which the grant will be administered, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a large, p
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Contact: John Lacey
public_affairs@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0442
Harvard Medical School
2-Oct-2002


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