The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits "the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties." However, when a nation refuses to sign the agreement and continues to stockpile chemical warfare agents, it raises worldwide concerns. In the case of Syria, its own citizens have good reason to fear being the target of attack.
Doing more with less is a key component of public health preparedness. The solution is to re-energize and refocus efforts, leverage partnerships, and integrate activities across programs and systems. The 2013 Public Health Preparedness Summit offers a national forum to collaborate with members of the public, private, and non-profit sectors, explore various topics, and share best practices and innovative strategies to protect the public.
Declaring a public emergency requires that the right message is delivered by the right person at the right time. In Boston, the number of vaccinations increased and the number of reported influenza cases decreased after local decision makers met those three criteria.
From natural disasters to bioterrorist attacks, public health emergencies can emerge from a broad range of events. Officials must be able to recognize when to declare the emergencies and understand the impacts of such declarations. As Superstorm Sandy demonstrated, sometimes exceptions are needed to provide rapid disaster relief.
National Security Special Events such as the presidential inauguration require dozens of committees working closely together to coordinate efforts to protect the health and security of all visitors and participants. Stationary and mobile medical units were strategically positioned to address any health concern that might arise.
Online educational programs fill an important niche for today's emergency professionals. However, decisions must be weighed when choosing online vs. classroom training because the process of watching online videos, reading a book, and taking tests differs in many ways from learning the practical skills needed to assess and treat patients.
Managing change and risk is an ongoing challenge for emergency medical services managers. One growing concern is whether, before transporting patients to the hospital, paramedics should be providing more care than is now required.
Hospitals and other medical facilities are rapidly evolving into a true national healthcare system that can more effectively meet the 21st-century threats posed by terrorist acts and infectious diseases. Fortunately, systems and technological capabilities needed to cope with such threats, particularly those involving infectious agents, is already available.
During and after a known or suspected biological attack, most events initially play out in local hospitals where the first symptoms caused by a toxic agent are recognized. Raising awareness among medical staff and expanding current training programs will help healthcare providers respond to a possible biological event both more quickly and more effectively.
As the threat of a biological attack against the United States increases, the nation's public health sector faces many hurdles, including funding cuts and difficulties in integrating the plans and policies of various levels of government - and with the private sector. Since the 9/11 attacks, greater focus has been placed on both biodefense and biosurveillance, but much more is needed.