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Avoiding Armageddon
From the Experts

Voices from - Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues
Dr. Ken Alibek
Dr. Leonard Cole
Dr. D.A. Henderson
Dr. Tara O'Toole
Dr. Amy Smithson

Voices from - Nuclear Nightmares: Losing Control

Voices from - The New Face of Terror: Upping the Ante

Voices from - Confronting Terrorism: Turning the Tide

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From the Experts WMD: A Primer Companion Book
Voices from "Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues"

Dr. Tara O'Toole

Dr. Tara O'Toole is an expert on biological weapons and terrorism and is currently director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and on the faculty at the School of Hygiene and Public Health. The Center is dedicated to preventing the use of biological weapons. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. O'Toole served as assistant secretary of Energy for Environment and Health.

"I think most folks assume that it's more difficult to build a lethal biological weapon than we believe it is. There have been a lot of advances in technology, in microbiology and so forth since the U.S. stopped its offensive weapons program in 1970. And although it might've taken the sophistication and the money of a nation-state in 1970 to build a biological weapon, I think it's perfectly plausible to believe that terrorists today could build the anthrax that was in the Daschle envelope."
Speaking of what was learned from the 2001 Anthrax attack, Dr. O'Toole says, "Well, one thing that we need to do better is we need to communicate more quickly and effectively, both among the medical centers involved in treating patients during a bio-weapons attack, and between medicine and public health."
"The doctors in the Anthrax attacks were mostly getting their information from television. They weren't hearing from their public health professionals. And on a normal day, there's not much back-and-forth communication between public health and medicine in this country at this point in time, unfortunately."
"One thing that did happen that was very positive is that the docs in the Washington, DC area formed their own morning phone conference call, to exchange information about what they were seeing. Some of them were treating cases of anthrax, and they were exchanging clinical data about what they thought was the best way to treat these patients, how they presented, how to diagnose them and so forth. And we found out about that call and started participating in it, and I think that was a very powerful tool."

   Read more about "Silent Killers: Poisons and Plagues" in the Episode Gallery.
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