Special team to deal with bio-terrorism

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 22 May 2003


PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has set up a multi-disciplinary team to establish a national plan to face infectious disease outbreaks including bio-terrorism attacks. 

Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said the proposed plan would include the setting up of rapid response teams at district, state and national levels. 

“We have been working on the plan for the past year,” he said during the opening of a symposium on bio-terrorism, organised by the Malaysian Medical Association yesterday. 

The functions of the rapid response team include: 

  • ONGOING analysis of all epidemiological information concerning infectious diseases; 

  • PLANNING for control and response strategies in the light of overall programme objectives, including training of relevant personnel; 

  • COMMUNICATION with the general public and the media during an outbreak; and 

  • EVALUATION of the outbreak response, identification of deficiencies and recommendation for improvements and policy changes. 

    Dr Ismail said the ministry needed to draw up training programmes as soon as possible for health personnel, particularly those in the frontline such as casualty doctors, outpatient doctors and general practitioners, to recognise classical bio-terrorist weapons like anthrax, plague and smallpox. 

    According to Dr Ismail, the ministry would also need to upgrade its infrastructure, including laboratories and hospitals. 

    He added that sufficient supplies of critical items like essential antibiotics, vaccines, disinfectants and personal protective equipment must be stockpiled and distributed in a timely and efficient manner in times of crises. 

    “In this regard, the ministry is planning to set up an Institute of Natural Products Research and Vaccinology with the assistance of the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry as part of the BioValley initiative,” he added. 

    He said laws pertaining to prevention and control of infectious disease needed to be reviewed and appropriate amendments made if necessary. 

    The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd group editor-in-chief Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, who also spoke at the symposium, said the Government must develop a co-ordinated preparedness effort to respond to any threat or eventuality of a bio-terrorist attack. 

    Later, Dr Ismail told reporters at the Health Ministry's daily SARS briefing that it was very important to train medical personnel from laboratory technicians and doctors to healthcare workers about possible diseases linked to bio-terrorism.

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