Biowatch plans for national biosensor network
| 05.19.2006 | 07:45:24 | Views: 3307 | ID:
May 19 '06: Inside the Pentagon reported Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security expects to have a national network of bio-sensors up and running by 2009 that would be "capable of detecting dangerous airborne biological agents in major US cities," according to a Homeland Security official.
The Director of Biological Countermeasures at the Department of Homeland Security John Vitko said that currently, agents in the field have to collect the information gathered from the filters on the sensors and transport them to labs for testing. Under the new program, the filters could "transmit information about airborne agents to labs over a wireless connection," Inside the Pentagon reported.The Biowatch program is an extension of Homeland Security operations mandated by the White House when it combined 22 various federal agencies under one aegis. Last year, the budget for the program totaled almost $80 million for "adding scores of sensors in the top threat cities and at high-value targets such as stadiums and transit systems to increase the chances of detecting the release of biological pathogens." R&D funds were included in the 2005 funding, the White House website read. In the past, other federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency "had helped to implement the system quickly and quietly in a number of cities to look for early indicators that people, animals and plants [that were] ... exposed to biological agents," GovExec.com reported last year. In addition to the Biowatch program, the National Biosurveillance Integration System and the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics program were designed to help federal, state, local and tribal officials design preparations for "mitigating effects of outbreaks before they can spread to large portions of the population," Inside the Pentagon reported. Additional preparations by the federal government to handle potentially large biological disasters include preparations for the avian flu. A government website has been set up to disseminate information regarding federal and state preparations. Additionally, the White House released its plan to handle response and recovery in case an outbreak occurs.
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