The Complexity Of Biosurveillance System Design

A designer of a comprehensive biosurveillance system for a city or a country would have to elucidate functional requirements for detection of hundreds of biological agents that can cause disease in animals and humans (and, through mutation, the number continues to expand). As in the case of anthrax, many of these agents can infect humans or animals through diverse pathways (amplified by the ingeniousness of terrorists), resulting in an almost infinite variety of outbreaks that a biosurveillance system must be capable of recognizing in a timely manner. This section provides but a sample of these biological agents, those identified by international and national organizations as being of the greatest concern. Our purpose in this section is to indicate the magnitude and complexity of the design problem.

4.1. Biological Agents that Threaten Human Populations

Table 4.2 is a list of biological agents that we created by consolidating lists developed by internationally recognized organizations and experts. Five of the primary sources listed bioterrorism threats; the sixth, nationally notifiable diseases (Wagner et al., 2003b).We sorted the list by the number of lists each threat appeared on to bring the consensus threats to the top. Note that several of the viral entries in the table represent classes of viruses that contain many individual viruses (e.g., the entry alphaviruses includes Venezuelan, eastern, western, and equine encephalomyelitis)

TABLE 4.2 Human Disease Threats

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