EU countries take measures in the face of anthrax scares

The European Commission and EU Member States
have adopted a number of measures to counter the threat of
bio-terrorist attacks after Europe and the US have been hit by
several anthrax scares. US experts believe the anthrax
discovered in these cases is not the laboratory-made type that
would be used in a biological terrorist attack.

Several cases of anthrax have been confirmed in the US over
the last few days: three more people have been exposed to
this biological agent in New York where an
anthrax-contaminated letter was sent to NBC television.
Anthrax as also discovered at Microsoft’s offices in Nevada
and the American Media Inc in Florda.

US Health Secretary Tommy Thompson has
said that the recent outbreaks of anthrax in the United
States are an “act of terrorism”. Some politicians,
including US Vice President Dick Cheney, have linked the
anthrax cases to Osama Bin Laden or Iraq.

The European Commission adopted an
action plan to respond to potential threats of bio and
nuclear terrorism on 12 October. The plan foresees
increased co-operation among EU Member States, candidate
countries and the European Economic Area to protect
European citizens from potential biochemical threats.

 

French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner said France was
resuming production of smallpox vaccine because of concern
that biological warfare could be used in terrorist attacks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has
said that countries need to strengthen their capacity to
respond to the consequences of the use of biological or
chemical agents as weapons. The WHO has called for "proper
surveillance and a quick coordinated response" against the
use of agents such as anthrax or smallpox.

The German government has decided to set
up a federal information office on biological warfare.
German pharmaceutical company Bayer has increased
production of its anti-anthrax drug Cipro.

The Netherlands, Britain and Italy have
also taken measures to deal with risks of biological
warfare.

 

The EU will adopt another package of measures at a
conference organised by the Belgian Presidency in the
beginning of December. This conference will prepare a
short, medium and long-term working programme to defend the
EU from threats of nuclear, biological and chemical
warfare.

The conclusions of this conference will
serve as a basis for a Commission-sponsored forum,
consisting of Member States experts, who will implement the
programme.

 

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