Department of Defense Biological Threat Responses to the 2009-2010 H1N1 Influenza Outbreak: A Real World Exercise (Counterproliferation Paper Number 51, April 2011)
AIR FORCE COUNTERPROLIFERATION CENTER MAXWELL AFB AL
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Beginning in April 2009 with the outbreak and rapid spread of the H1N1 swine flu, the world witnessed the potential effects of a bioterrorist attack. While the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic was a naturally occurring disease outbreak and not a deliberate attack, the symptoms, infection rates, and response mechanisms associated with the virus could be similar to the impacts of a deliberate attack employing a contagious biological agent. Unlike nuclear or chemical weapons that have clearly identifiable signatures, biological agents may be disseminated covertly, and therefore they may not be identified immediately. The first indication of a biological event could be more numerous-than-expected hospital visits in a particular location, or in a group of people who were in the same location at the same time. Whether natural or deliberate, biological outbreaks will have similar impacts on employee absenteeism, school and work closures, the availability and distribution of medical and nonmedical countermeasures, and mortality rates. While influenza is not a viable biological warfare BW agent, the H1N1 outbreak provided the U.S. Government and the Military Services an opportunity to identify and assess valuable lessons learned that can be applied in the event of a deliberate BW attack. It also can provide insight into how to improve DoD responses to future WMD attacks.
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