* USA Today reports on bioWatch technology to detect anthrax and other bioterror agents
Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 6, 2009
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bioWatch technology is operating in over 30 cities
Steve Sternberg writes in USA Today (10-6-09)
- As the anthrax attacks unfolded in 2001, the White House ordered Tom Slezak to Washington, D.C., to deploy experimental technology that scientists from Livermore and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico had developed to protect athletes and spectators at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
- The detection system had never been put to a real-world test. Soon, the safety of many U.S. cities would depend on it.
- Today, eight years after the anthrax attacks, the system Slezak’s research team started, known as BioWatch, is quietly operating in more than 30 cities.
- In September 2005, BioWatch detected bacteria that cause tularemia — a known bioterror agent— on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during an anti-war demonstration that drew thousands of marchers. Further tests suggested the bacteria occurred naturally and was no threat, officials said then.
- “There’s a general feeling that anthrax will be the most likely agent of choice. It’s available in nature, it doesn’t require heavy science to manipulate, and it can be granulized into a form that makes it easier to disseminate” and inhaled.
- Another reason anthrax is appealing to bioterrorists, he says, is that it is difficult to detect. Anthrax detonates silently, without smoke or flame. Its spores are odorless and all but invisible. Like a deadly pollen, they can float on air.
- “We’re looking for aerosolized anthrax,” Hooks says. “That’s the No. 1 aerosolized biological risk agent.”
- Anthrax appears to be especially attractive to al-Qaeda, according to the WMD commission report. The terrorist network that orchestrated 9/11 had two biological stations in Qandahar, Afghanistan, that were unknown to Western intelligence services until U.S. troops found them in 2001, the report says.
- “It’s our information that the effort al-Qaeda started in Qandahar in the late ’90s has been relocated to Pakistan,” Graham says. “They’ve had eight years to regroup.”
- Graham says he can’t discuss whether other terrorist groups also are tinkering with anthrax or other bioweapons.
- Although the anthrax case has not been closed because the lead suspect committed suicide, the FBI blames the attacks on a lone government scientist, Bruce Ivins of the United States Army Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
- “The Ivins case showed that this is now something that an individual can do,” Kadlec says.
read the entire article at … http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-10-05-biowatch-biological_N.htm
for more about bioWatch … http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/systems/biowatch.htm