Analysis & Opinions - The Hill

Trump Must Prevent the Next Biological Attack Before It Strikes

| Sep. 02, 2017

Biological threats have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. This summer, while nuclear tensions are center stage, we can’t afford to divert attention from biological threats. Pathogens know no borders, don’t have passports, can come from a bioterrorist or Mother Nature and can ignite already volatile situations. And the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas is yet another reminder of the importance of health security before, during and after a crisis.

Being prepared to respond to immediate threats is, of course, paramount to save lives. At the same time, as the former White House National Security Council staffers responsible for countering biological threats, we saw firsthand the need to maintain long-term focus — even during a crisis — on bolstering our nation’s biodefense capability. We know that biological threats must remain at the top of the national security agenda, and leaders must recognize that stopping outbreaks at the source requires strong global and domestic capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to naturally occurring outbreaks and biological attacks.

A test of this focus came in April 2013, when two biothreats developed that proved vital for shaping biodefense and global health security policy over the next four years. First, the deadly toxin ricin was found in letters mailed to President Obama, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi judge. Second, a worrisome new strain of H7N9 avian influenza that could infect humans was discovered in China. These events occurred during the same week as the devastating Boston Marathon bombing, and all the events were happening as Abu Bakr Baghdadi announced the formation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Holgate, Laura and Elizabeth Cameron.“Trump Must Prevent the Next Biological Attack Before It Strikes.” The Hill, September 2, 2017.

The Authors