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By Robin Nelson

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Mathematical models of disease transmission and distribution using simulations of a covert release of various agents could be helpful in assessing the potential and relative value of different surveillance systems. An integrated national system that can report diseases electronically in real time is needed to support these networks. , the automated scanning of electronic media, such as that utilized by the Global Public Health Information Network). Systems of syndrome surveillance—that is, screening for changes in the frequency of cases of flulike illness seen in hospital emergency rooms across a city or town—should be developed to identify outbreak patterns.

Here there is a major need for training; a critical mass of competent scientific expertise in epidemiological modeling has not to date been adequately supported. Such efforts should become major responsibilities of NIH, CDC, and DOD. Constructing models may be easier, however, than supplying them with meaningful data. There are gaps in our understanding of the factors that affect biological agents’ dispersal and uptake by humans, animals, and plants. , the dose-response curves) for different agents are common.

S. crops is produced in other countries, presenting a possible route for the introduction of dangerous plant pathogens as well as contaminated fertilizers and pesticides; (4) fungi, viruses, and bacteria cause more than 50,000 diseases of plants in the United States; (5) for any given crop, there are several pathogens that are not yet found in the United States but that cause major losses elsewhere; and (6) the biological agents that could affect crops are more numerous than the pathogens that affect humans, making it more difficult to focus the research funding available for efforts to counter agricultural bioterrorism.

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