Much progress has been made in recent years to strengthen local, state, national and international capacities to detect and respond to bioterrorism events and naturally occurring outbreaks of disease. New tools and systems are available to estimate the potential impact of a biological event and predict resource needs for effective response, enable earlier detection of an attack or outbreak, enhance diagnostic capacity and facilitate rapid intervention to mitigate the impact of an event on a community. These advances have required new approaches to preparedness, planning and surveillance, as well as new partnerships and collaborations across a range of disciplines. We examine some of these developments, discuss potential uses and limitations of these approaches, and identify priorities for the future.
This special supplement of Nature Medicine, directed at the topic of emerging infectious diseases, is very timely. Recent high-profile outbreaks have highlighted the global risk that infectious agents, both new and old, represent for society. The experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) shows the risk posed by emerging infectious diseases, but also the power of strongly coordinated global surveillance and public health measures, coupled with scientific research, to keep infection under control
1, 2. Diseases such as drug-resistant malaria continue to be threats. There is a need to enhance global resources to investigate, detect and respond to emerging infections, and to appropriately coordinate and direct research efforts to meet the challenges presented by these diseases.