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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2006 Oct;63(19-20):2223-8.

Development of a matrix to evaluate the threat of biological agents used for bioterrorism.

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Health Threats Unit, Public Health Directorate, European Commission, 2920, Luxembourg.


Adequate public health preparedness for bioterrorism includes the elaboration of an agreed list of biological and chemical agents that might be used in an attack or as threats of deliberate release. In the absence of counterterrorism intelligence information, public health authorities can also base their preparedness on the agents for which the national health structures would be most vulnerable. This article aims to describe a logical method and the characteristics of the variables to be brought in a weighing process to reach a priority list for preparedness. The European Union, in the aftermath of the anthrax events of October 2001 in the United States, set up a task force of experts from multiple member states to elaborate and implement a health security programme. One of the first tasks of this task force was to come up with a list of priority threats. The model, presented here, allows Web-based updates for newly identified agents and for the changes occurring in preventive measures for agents already listed. The same model also allows the identification of priority protection action areas.

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