Eastern European Collaboration and Partnership in Countering Biological Threats
The Trilateral (US-Romania-Moldova) Civilian-Military Forum on Outbreak Response and Bioterrorism Investigation (ORBIT Forum), was held in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova, on 19-21 October 2010. It was organized by the US Department of Health and Human Services (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response) and the US Department of Defense (US European Command, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine, and the US Public Health Command – Europe). The ORBIT Forum included awareness training and a tabletop exercise designed to evaluate policies and plans for prevention, deterrence, and response to bioterrorism incidents borne out of the convergence of criminal and terrorist networks.
The goals of this event were to: i) promote interagency (in particular public health-law enforcement but also civilian-military) cooperation, coordination and synchronization for preparing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease outbreaks, whether natural, accidental, or deliberate in nature; ii) establish sustainable laboratory partnerships to enhance training and medical surveillance initiatives among the three countries; and iii) strengthen the core capacities required by the WHO International Health Regulations and existing national measures consistent with obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention and the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to deter, prevent, and respond to biological incidents or threats.
The ORBIT Forum was attended by about 100 participants including civilian and military public health personnel (laboratory and preventive medicine staff, epidemiologists, emergency response planners, administrators), law enforcement, intelligence, military, and affiliated professionals (other first responders, public communication officers, foreign affairs officers), and representatives of non-governmental organizations from US, Romania, and Moldova. Also in attendance were representatives of inter-governmental organizations (WHO, European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Interpol, NATO, UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, and the Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit). Opening remarks were offered by the US Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, His Excellency Asif Chaudhry.
The Trilateral (US-Romania-Moldova) Civilian-Military Forum on Outbreak Response and Bioterrorism Investigation follows on the heels of the Southern Caucasus Workshop on Public Health, Security, and Law Enforcement Partnership in Bio-Incident Pre-Planning and Response and the associated Southern Caucasus BioShield 2010 Tabletop Exercise held in Tbilisi, Georgia, 11-12 May 2010.
These events illustrate the US Government’s commitment toward the implementation of the objectives of the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, to promote global health security and transform the international dialogue on biological threats, as well as working with cross-border and global partners to enhance national, continental, and global health security in accordance with the National Health Security Strategy.
For participants’ feedback, please see the interviews with BG Mihai Marius Muresan, MD, PhD, Surgeon General, Romania, and COL Hans Holtherm, MD, Head of Deployment Health Surveillance, Bundeswehr Medical Office, NATO ACO Medical Directorate.