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Draft Speech for Janet Napolitano

January 11th, 2010


Elimination of Anthrax as a Threat

Christa Johnson, Shana Rakowsky, Vania Reyes

Science & Society: Global Challenges

14 December, 2009

Appendix 3 – Speech presented by Janet Napolitano

“Good morning and thank you very much. I would like to thank Vania Reyes, Shana Rakowsky, and Christa Johnson for their kind introductions.

I greatly appreciate the Center for Disease Control and Prevention hosting us here today. The efforts of the CDC have helped us make this solution viable, and we are deeply appreciative.

The topic we are discussing today presents great challenges to our national security. Because of this, it is of crucial importance that the department be made aware of what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to meet those challenges.

As you know, the Commission on the Prevention of WMD, Proliferation, and Terrorism stated that “It is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.” The internal anthrax attack of 2001 revealed the flaw of the United States in dealing with the threat of biological weapons, a problem that is both international and domestic.

The legislation created by President Obama to defend against such acts of biological terrorism has been very definite in setting the bar for what we as a country need to do to protect our nation.

So today I will reveal to you a novel approach to eliminating the threat. There is an urgent need to refocus our counter attack approach, to adapt strategies that were successful in the past and apply them in innovative ways to the problems that continue to plague our great nation.

The challenge is not to just figure out better ways to strengthen our guards and gates or to increase the responsibility placed on our scientific personnel. Rather, the challenge is to find a way to completely eliminate a problem, a way that renders an attack ineffective.

A wise approach to protecting our nation from a biological attack would be to highlight one of the greatness strengths of our country – our ability to innovate, to create, to modify, to make more efficient. The United States has employed extremely innovative ways to defend our country in the past, and has never been too proud to look into our history and evaluate where we were most effective and where our attempts fell short.

This problem of bioterrorism calls for us to re-evaluate our efforts. It calls for our scientists, our legislators, to think beyond the typical approaches, to look into our past and see where we succeeded.  It calls for us to modify those successes in such a way so that they are applicable to the problem of bioweapons in the 21st century.

Currently the United States has a list of the ten most dangerous pathogens. These pathogens, due to their abilities to cause great fatalities and instill public fear, require our immediate attention. We cannot allow ourselves, as members of a great and powerful nation, to be susceptible to attacks by these pathogens by rogue nations, organizations, or anyone.

Current efforts focus on dealing with the overall threat of bioweapons. And while these efforts are necessary, the Department also realizes it must address each pathogen individually. These pathogens are living, multiplying, and unique. Through the hard work of our Department, the United States has found a way to make the response of our nation safe from, arguably, the most dangerous of these pathogens – anthrax.

The past has shown the ability of anthrax to cause death and public fear. Following the 2001 attacks, the safety and integrity of our postal system was threatened. Our people were scared. Of the 22 that were infected, 5 died. Our new approach will ensure that attack by anthrax will never again cause death or fear. We will ensure that the United States is fully prepared to effectively respond in such a way that the appeal of anthrax as a WMD will be completely eliminated.

Let me stress – we have the ability to render an anthrax attack against the United States completely ineffective.

The consequences of living in a state of fear rather than a state of preparedness are enormous. A report by the World Health Organization, Clinical and Epidemiologic Principles of Anthrax, explicated the magnanimity of the impacts an effective anthrax attack would cause. Following the 2001 attack, the United States was not as prepared as it should have been. Lack of preparation is a risk that the United States is no longer willing to take.

So how do we propose to counter this problem? During the terrifying days of the Cold War, the United States remained in a nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union by having the ability to retaliate against a nuclear attack. Today we have the ability to retaliate against and anthrax attack, not with anthrax itself, but with the means to treat and protect the entire United States population. The hard work and dedication of our nation’s scientists and researchers have developed and tested the efficacy of treatments that will protect and cure any citizen who is infected with anthrax.

We propose to continue furthering the government action that has already been taken. Currently, all members of the military as well as susceptible populations receive the anthrax vaccine. The current vaccine has a high protection rate and a low rate of side effects. We plan to stockpile this vaccine in such a quantity that every man, woman, and child of the United States will be able to receive the regimen following an anthrax attack.

Research has shown that a combination therapy of the vaccine and antibiotics is the best therapy to save those infected by anthrax – it proved to be 100% effective. It is imperative that this vaccine is readily made available to the public to not only protect those who were not yet exposed to the pathogen, but to most effectively treat and save those who showed symptoms.

We will stockpile this vaccine in the Strategic National Stockpile. This stockpile already exists and is in operation. The stockpile is organized for flexible response, and contains 12-Hour Push Packs that can be delivered anywhere in the United States within 12 hours. Each state and locality already has a plan by which they can deliver the medicine they receive to every citizen in their locality.

In Chesapeake County, VA, a method of home delivery was employed. Using school buses, every citizen successfully received their vaccination within 48 hours. In Lake County, IL, the voting sites were used to deliver the vaccines to the citizens. A mock simulation proved their method effective – all households will be able to receive their vaccinations in the allotted time slot.

The government has already invested $6 billion to defend against bioweapons via Project Bioshield, and about $500 million into increasing the number of vaccine doses in the stockpile. We plan to immediately increase the number of vaccines in the stockpile.

The symptoms of anthrax worsen over an approximately ten-day period. Beginning with prodromal stage symptoms, they worsen to fulminant stage before death results. Due to the highly effective distribution of medication via the Strategic National Stockpile, we will be able to reach every U.S. citizen with vaccination within a maximum of four days – before the symptoms ever reach the fulminant level.

The 2001 attacks proved that infected citizens will seek medical attention while they are still in the prodromal phase. A problem that resulted at that time was that the medical community was not fully aware of the symptoms of anthrax infection, and so some cases were not properly diagnosed until it was too late. In order to address this issue, the government and the medical community have made joint efforts to ensure that all emergency personnel and medical caregivers are fully aware.

New classes, such as the WMD Awareness-Level Training Course, provides students of the course with a thorough knowledge of the strategies to prevent WMD attacks and ways to deal with attacks when they happen. Over 60,000 personnel in all 50 states have already received WMD training, and the program aims to soon be an ally of all premier medical institutions in the United States.

Highly accredited medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Annals of Emergency Medicine, has increased the prevalence of publications pertaining to WMD. These journals can be found in every medical school and are received by the majority of doctors. They also are readily available for viewing on the internet.

New diagnostic tests further improve the speed and efficacy of a doctor’s diagnosis. A culture and sensitivity test of the blood, spinal fluid, skin sores, or respiratory fluids reveal the presence of the bacteria from which anthrax is weaponized, bacillus anthracis. The Anthrax Quick ELISA test has been approved for diagnostic use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and can be completed much more quickly than any previous test. Upon the positive diagnosis of one case of anthrax infection, the vaccine stockpile in the SNS would be immediately deployed. Within 4 days, the entire United States population would be effectively and irrevocably treated and protected from the current attack and any future attack.

The attack will result in minimal to no fatalities. Public fear will not ensue, because the citizens are now aware that we have a plausible, effective, and efficient way to address the problem. The anthrax attack will have been entirely ineffective.

The novel proposal of the Department can be split into two parts – the implementation of pre-attack precautions and the definition of post-attack strategy. By ensuring both parts are in place, our enemies will be deterred from using anthrax in an attack. The efficiency of our response will ensure that no citizen will be left unprotected following an anthrax attack. Anthrax as a biological weapon of mass destruction will cease to cause mass destruction. Anthrax as a weapon will be rendered ineffective.”

*Modeled off of: “DHS: Remarks by Secretary Napolitano at the Council on Foreign Relations.” Department of Homeland Security | Preserving our Freedoms, Protecting America. Web. 23 Nov. 2009. <http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/speeches/sp_1248891649195.shtm>.

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