Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Latest Pandemic Threat

cnsphoto/ China Out via Reuters
We could dodge this bullet, but we need to be prepared for the next one.
I’m worried about the new coronavirus that has broken out in China and spread, albeit as of now in isolated cases, to other countries. Fortunately, the CDC has assessed that the risk of a major outbreak in the United States is low.
I hope the risk is indeed low, because the stakes are very high, particularly now that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.
I was heavily involved in this issue from 2007 to 2012. During that time, I co-chaired, with former senator Bob Graham of Florida, two congressional commissions on the danger of bio-weapons and the best means of combating or responding to them. The commissions produced reports, recommendations, and a report card on the government’s preparedness for a bio-attack.
Senator Graham and I also co-founded the WMD Terrorism Research Center, a not-for-profit organization. The purpose was to conduct a comprehensive, end-to-end assessment of America’s ability to detect, diagnose, and respond to a large-scale biological event, either man-made or naturally occurring. We wanted to know how resilient the American health-care system would be if the balloon went up on a pandemic.
It was a groundbreaking effort. To that point, no one had ever defined the different links in the chain of resilience, much less conducted a national assessment of their strength. Of course Senator Graham and I did not have the technical expertise to manage such an undertaking, so the assessment was led by our CEO, Randy Larsen, our president, Lynne Kidder, and dozens of public-health experts who developed the methodology, identified the categories of response, defined metrics for performance, and conducted the actual assessment. Larsen and Kidder describe what the process entailed here.
We released our assessment in October of 2011. The report is over eight years old now, but to my knowledge, it is still the only effort of its kind, and its framework for assessment is still the leader in the field.
It’s been apparent for years that a global biological pandemic is the biggest single threat, other than a strategic nuclear war, to the health and economy of the United States. The pandemic could occur naturally, or it could be the product of a terrorist attack or even a laboratory accident. One of the worst-case scenarios involves a virus that is contagious through the air, which has a potentially deadly effect, and for which no vaccine or therapeutic can quickly be developed.
Read the rest from Jim Talent HERE.

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