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Salud Pública de México

versión impresa ISSN 0036-3634


PONCE DE LEON-ROSALES, Samuel et al. Preparedness against bioterrorist attacks in Mexico. Salud pública Méx [online]. 2001, vol.43, n.6, pp.589-603. ISSN 0036-3634.

The vulnerability of human populations to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism has been widely discussed but insufficiently studied. Current public health policies are not guided by solid and relevant information to design cost-effective programs for preventing or controlling this kind of incidents in the future. Governmental budgets are insufficient to respond to bioterrorist attacks. To face these threats, developing countries like Mexico should frame strategies and devise specific preventive actions that consider the transmission dynamics of potential infectious agents likely to be used in a bioterrorist attack. Proposals. The international reaction to a biological attack must be supported by international agreements that ban the use of biological agents for warfare and/or defense purposes, as well as on academic and technological exchange for the prevention of bioterrorist attacks. At the national level, the recommendations in the event of a biological attack are: a) establishing a legal defense strategy against bioterrorism; b) implementing education programs as a key strategy for defense against bioterrorism; c) devising a national program of interinstitutional antibioterrorist coordination that includes medical emergency assistance and collection of medical forensic evidence; d) including a biological weapon registry in epidemiological surveillance systems; e) implementing a laboratory for biological material analysis related to terrorist incidents; f) devising public health information campaigns, g) assuring the supply of diagnostic testing, special protection, and emergency treatment materials; h) decentralizing alert systems for the timely detection of bioterrorist attacks; i) responding to bioterrorist actions addressed against animals and plants, and j) organizing Ethics Committees in case of urgent events derived from a biological attack. Conclusions. The proper response to sudden and unexpected events of emergent or unusual infectious diseases involved in a bioterrorist attack requires an adequate public health infrastructure. Modern technology allows the timely identification of multiple infectious agents by nucleic acid analyses and should be widely available in reference laboratories. All these measures require sufficient funding to respond to this potential threat. Resource allocation to respond to bioterrorist attacks must be consonant with their potential public health consequences. The English version of this paper is available at:

Palabras llave : bioterrorism; biological warfare agents; institutional response; Mexico.

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