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Preparing for a bioterrorist event or biological threat: Workshop at the RKI. Source: RKI

Biological Threats

Prevent, detect and respond to threats

Threats caused by certain substances or agents can have a natural origin or ensue as a result of an unintentional release or a deliberate attack. These threats are differentiated according to the nature of the origin: chemical – biological – radiological – nuclear – explosive (CBRNE).

The Robert Koch Institute focuses on handling threats of biological origin that could have grave consequences for the health of the population at large. The Centre for Biological Threats and Special Pathogens (ZBS) at RKI is faced with the task of recognising, assessing and coping with natural and accidental outbreaks caused by special and highly pathogenic infectious agents or toxins, as well as bioterrorism.

In case of a suspected bioterrorist event, ZBS supports the responsible health and security authorities by providing scientific expertise on dealing with biological hazardous and infectious substances, as well as on-site evaluation and assistance by scientists from ZBS if requested to do so.

In close cooperation with local health and security authorities, the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation and Special Police Forces, ZBS carries out the following tasks during a bioterrorist incident:

  • Supporting situational threat and risk assessment
  • Environmental on-site sampling in support of local authorities
  • Diagnostic verification and characterization of the pathogen or biological toxin in environmental and clinical samples (if required)
  • Providing advice to forensics on the analysis of contaminated trace evidence

During and following the operation, ZBS offers advice to the local responders and local health authority on how to deal with on-site contamination (situational assessment, personal protective equipment, potential safety precautions to prevent the spread of contamination, decontamination) as well as how to care for contaminated individuals.

In order to sustainably generate the necessary knowledge and competencies for these purposes, ZBS works very closely with various expert committees. With specialists from clinical management, occupational health and safety as well as security experts, comprehensive concepts and training modules are developed and tested among other things in order to prepare for and respond to biological threats.

Date: 04.07.2018