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Bio-Terrorism preparedness and response - Essay Example

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Though the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) was established in 1999 in response to the biological and chemical terrorism threat, the organization has taken on a much deeper role in the control of infectious disease by training, organizing, and uniting public health response organizations across the nation…
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Bio-Terrorism preparedness and response
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Though the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) was established in 1999 in response to the biological and chemical terrorism threat, the organization has taken on a much deeper role in the control of infectious disease by training, organizing, and uniting public health response organizations across the nation. This results in not only improved response to bioterrorism, but also improved responses to many other infectious diseases and chemical toxins both synthetic and naturally occurring. Since its creation, the LRN has expanded to include state and local, military, and international labs, allowing for standardization and implementation of training and technical programs nation-wide. The LRN became operational in 1999, with an initial mission that focused on linking existing public health institutions with advanced laboratories, such as those of the military and various private entities. The organization was formed by a Presidential order to promote planning and increase laboratory capacity by creating an organized network of existent laboratory and clinical resources. Its original mission was expanded several years after its conception to include education, training, and dissemination of health risks in response to the B. anthracis (anthrax) letters of 2001 that incited much public interest in potential bioterrorism threats, threats that many local public health clinics were then poorly geared to handle (Morse et al., 2003). The primary original goal of the LRN was to give public health institutions access to top quality biologic and chemical laboratory facilities; however, that mission also grew to include training, education, and public dispersement of information on biological and chemical threats, one of the major program strengths. The network consists of laboratories designated at either national, sentinel, or reference levels, with most sentinel level laboratories (previously Level A) being hospitals or community laboratories (CDC, 2011). The various levels represent progressively increasing laboratory capacities, with the top tier being national labs, normally military and federal facilities that have the capacity to handle, identify, and conclusively perform advanced testing on infectious strains. Reference labs, perhaps the most significant accomplishment of the program, are labs within each state that have the ability to quickly and conclusively identify infectious agents. Though these facilities may not have the ability to provide advanced research and handling of infectious agents, they effectively allow officials and law enforcement to quickly identify threats (Morse et al., 2003). This allows for significantly faster response time in the case of outbreak, either naturally or due to bioterrorism agents. Due to this program, all 50 states now have the confirmatory capacity to quickly identify anthrax and many other potent potential bioterrorism agents, such as Yersinia pestis and Francisella tularensis. The LRN also has established an organized network for these labs to gain access to specialized and advanced federal laboratories in other areas in order to identify and confirm a variety of more rare biotoxins, such as Brucella spp., Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin, and variola major and to access genetic testing facilities capable of identifying stains of bacterial species and their origins (Morse et al., 2003). Previously, many local public health institutions not only lacked laboratory capacity for infectious strain identification, but these groups also lacked the training an knowledge to recognize the early signs of infection and outbreak, delaying potentially critical treatment. One of the primary benefits of the LRN is creating raised awareness of biological threats and providing local response units on a state-by-state level that can identify and respond to these threats more effectively. The LRN is a national network of about 150 labs that work in conjunction with thousands of sentinel laboratories around the country. The network includes many different laboratory types including Federal labs such as the CDC, FDA, US Dept. of Agriculture labs; military labs such as the Naval Medical Research Center in Bethesda, MD; international labs such as those located in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia; and a variety of specialized labs including veterinary and environmental research facilities (CDC, 2011). In addition, the LRN provides contracts and guidelines that help to standardize equipment purchases, making more advanced equipment available to many sentinel labs at significantly lower cost, though use of these programs is optional (Morse et al., 2003). The LRN allows virtually any local public health facility to have access to the most advanced diagnostic tools for infectious agents. The LRN comes at signficant costs, including over $23.1 million spent on funds for member labs in only the first three years of its existence, the majority of which was funded by federal cooperative agents. After the 2001 anthrax letters scare, LRN labs were awarded an additional $118 million in supplemental funds over the budgeted amount in addition to contributions by professional societies and other organizations (Morse et al., 2003). While the availability of access and standardization of equipment and training may improve many facilities, it also imposes limitations on more advanced or well-funded sentinel labs, particularly those with very narrow but advanced research concentrations. The LRN is expensive to maintain; however, the benefits of the network are apparent. The LRN serves to educate the public and public health staff and officials. The training allows staff of local institutions to be aware of bioterrorism threats and respond more effectively. It also provides a way for local and state labs to get quick access to advanced diagnostic facilities necessary in identifying and treating infectious agents that may spread or worsen quickly if left untreated. These significant benefits, however, are not without cost, with LRN taking considerable shares of federal funds for research and public health. The imposition of standardization of equipment also has pros and cons for individual sentinel labs. References CDC. (2011). Facts About the Laboratory Response Network. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.bt.cdc.gov/lrn/factsheet.asp Morse, Stephen; Kellogg, Richard; Meyer, Richard; Bray, David; Nichelson, David; and Miller, Michael. (2003) Laboratory Response Network (LRN) is vital to bioterrorism. American Society of Microbiology,69, 9, 433-437. 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