Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Bioincidents can dramatically affect the nation—including impacts on health and wellbeing, agriculture production, the food supply, critical infrastructure, and the economy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD) works with federal agencies and SLTT governments, the private sector, academia, and international partners to prevent and mitigate threats associated with the intentional misuse of biological materials. These efforts position biodefense stakeholders—at all levels of government and the private sector—to prevent such cases that could affect our citizens’ health directly or indirectly by adversely affecting our farms or food-manufacturing infrastructure.
Working in collaboration, the FBI WMDD and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within HHS filled a critical gap identified in the wake of the anthrax investigation in 2001 by establishing the Crim-Epi Investigations Model for multi-sectoral collaboration and information sharing. The Crim-Epi Model has become not only the gold standard for public health and law enforcement collaboration in the United States, but international partners, such as the International Criminal Police Organization, have adapted this model. Additionally, the Animal-Plant Health (APH) Joint Crim-Epi Investigations course was designed to incorporate the principles of law enforcement and animal and plant health investigations and represents a collaborative effort among FBI, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Veterinary Services, and Oklahoma State University. The APH Joint Crim-Epi Model was shared with the 182 countries of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) 2019 Meetings of Experts.3
Whether dealing with a bioterrorism attack or a newly emerging epidemic, early awareness that a potential bioincident is happening in a community provides the opportunity for a more rapid assessment of the situation and earlier response, potentially saving lives. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) NBIC is one example of work across the federal government to provide early awareness tools to federal and SLTT officials.
In partnership with the University of North Carolina, NBIC oversaw the development of the National Collaborative for BioPreparedness program, which deployed a nationwide adaptable framework that gives users an aggregated view of syndromic data allowing for the detection of unusual syndromes that may be indicative of a larger concern. This allows entities at every level of government to assess emerging biological threats through analytics and visualization of anomalous trends in emergency medical services data. The application of this framework has been applied to biological threats and other issues such as the opioid epidemic, hospital availability during disasters, and motor vehicle crashes in 41 states; the framework is currently covering 56 percent of national emergency medical services calls and continues to expand, improving our nation’s ability to detect and respond to bioincidents.
Figure 2: Example of seasonal trend of influenza-like illness in the United States over a two-year periodreflected in Emergency Medical Services data
Multidrug-resistant organisms pose a very serious threat to public health and our healthcare system. To better protect our nation from this threat, the Department of Defense (DOD) developed the Multidrug-resistant organism Repository and Surveillance Network (MRSN), to ensure timely identification and communication of natural outbreaks of multidrug-resistant bacteria. MRSN has produced more than 75 reports on outbreaks and has developed a screening protocol for new pathogens, including Candida auris—a pathogen identified as an urgent threat on the threat list in the
2019 CDC Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States Report. MRSN supports the protection of our nation’s service members while also guiding the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic MCMs through its repository of well-characterized, clinically relevant organism isolates.
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