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Civil Defence

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what contingency plans are in place to respond to bioterrorist attacks using (a) clostridium botulinium toxin (botulism), (b) yersinia pestis (plague), (c) francisella tularensis (tularaemia) and (d) viral haemorrhagic fevers; and if he will make a statement. [103437]

The Department of Health has had contingency plans in place with the national health service and key public health agencies to ensure a rapid response to, and recovery from, a terrorist attack for several years. Comprehensive guidance was first issued to the NHS in November 1998, followed by more specific guidance 'Deliberate Release of Biological and Chemical Agents: Guidance to help plan the health service response' issued in 2000.Following the events of 11 September 2001, regional directors of public health were given further generic advice on dealing with biological threats in October 2001, and guidance for clinicians on dealing with clostridium botulinium toxin (botulism), yersinia pestis (plague), francisella tularensis (tularaemia) and viral haemorrhagic fevers was put up on the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) website. All departmental guidance is now openly available on the Department's website at www.doh.gov.uk/epcu/cbr/intro.htm and the PHLS website at www.phls.co.uk/topics az/deliberate release/menu.htmA UK national stockpile of medical countermeasures for dealing with these infections has been established. This is accessible by the NHS on a 24-hour basis for rapid deployment in the event of a mass casualty incident, which may or may not be associated with deliberate release of hazardous material.The Department has also expanded its diagnostic and emergency support for public health emergencies by developing a facility, expertise, technology and training base at the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research related to agents of greatest threat.