Magazine article Security Management

Health Alerts to Fight Bioterror: New Web-Based Applications Collect Health-Related Data and Search for Patterns That Might Indicate That a Bioterror Attack Is Underway. (Tech Talk)

Magazine article Security Management

Health Alerts to Fight Bioterror: New Web-Based Applications Collect Health-Related Data and Search for Patterns That Might Indicate That a Bioterror Attack Is Underway. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

Less than a year ago, five Americans lost their lives to anthrax sent through the mail. While the disease was rapidly contained, the outbreak raised fears that future acts of bioterror would not be noticed until it was too late.

Since then, several new technological applications intended to give the public health sector a fighting chance against a bioterror attack have received heightened attention. These Web-based applications collect a variety of health-related data from a range of public-health sources. They then use data mining technologies that dig through mountains of information and sift through volumes of statistics, searching for patterns that might indicate that an attack is underway.

One prominent effort is called LEADERS, the Lightweight Epidemiological Advanced Detection Emergency Response System. (Another effort is discussed on page 42.) This system was first envisioned by Dr. Klaus Schafer about six years ago. Schafer, then a surgeon and a brigadier general with the Air Force, wanted to collect and analyze symptom data of American troops in the Middle East in light of concerns about Iraqi biological and chemical weapons.

Now, after involving companies including database-giant Oracle, SRA International, Inc., for data mining software, and EYT (formerly Ernst & Young Technologies) for hosting, the project is evolving into a nationwide system that collects and analyzes healthcare data submitted by hospitals and public-health systems.

Schafer explains that LEADERS is a suite that comprises several modular components. One component tracks symptoms; another, which he says is being used by as many as 18 hospitals in northern Virginia, collects data on bed availability in local hospitals, allowing dispatchers to immediately route ambulances to the best location. …

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