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Bush Signs Health Security, Bioterrorism Act

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2002 – President Bush signed The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Act of 2002 Wednesday to enhance the nation's ability to prevent, identify and respond to bioterrorism.

As the world learned last Sept. 11, terrorists' weapons of choice are unconventional, Bush said. On that day, U.S. airplanes became "weapons of terror." In the days following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. mail carried deadly microscopic spores.

"Bioterrorism is a real threat to our country," the president said. Terrorist groups seek biological weapons and some rogue states already have them, he said. Such weapons are potentially the most dangerous in the world.

"Last fall's anthrax attacks were an incredible tragedy to a lot of people in America," Bush said. The attacks sent "a warning we needed and have heeded."

"It's important that we confront these real threats to our country and prepare for future emergencies," Bush said. "This bill I sign today is a part of the process of doing our duty to protect innocent Americans from an enemy that hates America."

The act will enhance America's ability to prevent and detect bioterrorist acts. Under the law, U.S. authorities will be required to improve inspections of food entering U.S. ports. Officials will have better tools to contain attacks on food supplies.

"We'll have the authority to track biological materials anywhere in the United States," Bush noted.

The act will strengthen communications networks linking health care providers with public health authorities. Since health care professionals are likely to be the first to recognize a biological attack, Bush said, "the speed with which they detect and respond could be the difference between containment and catastrophe."

The act will also strengthen the health care system's ability to speed treatment. It will provide local health authorities with tools and resources and further develop the nation's stockpiles of smallpox vaccines. It will help U.S. officials develop better medicines and make new lifesaving drugs and therapies available more quickly.

"Protecting our citizens against bioterrorism is an urgent duty of American governments," the president concluded. "We must develop the learning, the technology and the health care delivery systems that will allow us to respond to attacks with state of the art medical care throughout our entire country."

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