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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Protecting the Nation from Emerging and Pandemic Infectious Diseases and CBRN Threats

Author: Darrin Donato, Senior Policy Analyst for the Office of Strategy, Policy, Planning, and Requirements within HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Michael Fucci, Jr. Management Analyst with Aveshka Inc. in support of the Office of Strategy, Policy, Planning, and Requirements, HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 2/13/2019 9:26:00 AM
Category: Medical Countermeasures; National Health Security;

National Health Security Strategy:  Blog 3

As we scan the threat landscape as a new year begins, we find that we face a range of evolving threats to national health security. Among these risk are emerging infectious diseases that could lead to pandemic and the potential for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.

An increasing number of immunocompromised and/or unvaccinated people (especially children), global mobility, population density acceleration, urbanization, and a growing resistence to antibiotics are all powerful trends of the 21st century that could threaten national health security.  These trends may increase the frequency, diversity, and complexity of disease outbreaks—such as Ebola, MERS, and Zika. Additionally, new strains of viruses, especially influenza viruses, and previously unseen routes of transmission, continue to emerge globally, increasing the chances of a disease outbreak evolving into a pandemic.

These natural threats join the host of serious, human-caused risks to national and global health security posed by CBRN threats.  These risks include the potential for a pathogen to be used for bioterrorism or as a biological warfare agent. According to the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment, these trends could lead to major economic and societal disruptions, straining governmental and international resources and increasing calls on the United States for support.

To help protect the nation from emerging and pandemic infectious diseases and CBRN threats, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the 2019-2022 National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) this week, its quadrennial strategy to prepare and safeguard the nation’s health in times of crisis.

A premise behind the 2019-2022 NHSS is that all levels of government and private sector partners have important roles to play to improve the nation’s ability to respond to and recover from 21st century threats.  To protect the nation more effectively from these emerging threats, HHS will use this whole of government/nation approach to:

Deepen interoperability by combining the strengths of our federal capabilities (including intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security, military and veteran stakeholders) and our private sector capabilities (including hospitals, the research community, academia, and disaster response agencies).  Greater interoperability can improve our ability to quickly and effectively gather, assess, and share information and surveillance data on disease outbreaks and CBRN threats.

Support and sustain a robust and reliable public health security capacity by modernizing key public health capabilities both domestically and abroad to help with disease situational awareness, containment, and treatment; risk communication and public preparedness; and public health policy and planning.

Accelerate the development and availability of new medical countermeasures to mitigate the health consequences of CBRN and emerging infectious threats by collaborating with federal and private partners to conduct research and development, accelerate licensures, and prioritize rapid production and dissemination of medical countermeasures.

Address 21st century threats that are known while scaling up internal federal processes to promote fast, flexible decision-making and resource allocation for unknown threats. We also must train and equip our public health and medical workforce to rapidly adapt to new threats and advance our laboratory safety, security, and capacity.

To learn more about the NHSS, check out the other blogs in this series and read the full 2019-2022 National Health Security Strategy.



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