Burr Holds Hearing on 21st Century Biological Threats

May 11, 2005

Senator Richard Burr held a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness today to investigate the continuing threats Americans face from biological diseases and weapons. The Subcommittee is a part of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The hearing focused on defining the threat from biological pathogens whatever their origin: natural, accidental or deliberate. While these events may occur locally, their impact would be global. Contagious pathogens like smallpox, SARS or avian influenza can rapidly spread internationally. Advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology and its diffusion globally hasten the day when states and terrorists can modify or even create highly virulent pathogens that can defeat our current medical defenses. Emerging and re-emerging diseases like SARS, Avian Influenza and monkey pox will continue to occur with potentially increasing frequency.

The Subcommittee heard testimony from The Honorable Dr. John Deutch, Former Director of Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of Defense, currently an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Craig Venter, President of the Venter Institute, Dr. Guenael Rodier, Director of Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response at the World Health Organization and Dr. Shelley Hearne, Executive Director of the Trust for America's Health.

"In the days since September 11, we've made great progress in better preparing ourselves for a bioterror attack. Clearly, however, there is more to do," said Senator Burr. "I would like to note that a recent report by the Trust for America's Health entitled 'Ready or Not: Protecting the Public's Health in the Age of Bioterrorism 2004' was a valuable comprehensive assessment of the preparedness of the states to deal with bioterrorism. It is a matter of personal and professional pride to note that North Carolina was cited in this report as one of two states scoring the highest in their assessment."