New Delhi: Experts on Thursday emphasised on a strong and well-integrated programme in sync with the different governmental arms to deal with bioterrorism, as diseases like Ebola and Zika could emerge as possible threats.
Lt Gen (retd) JR Bharadwaj, former director general Armed Forces Medical Service and also a former member of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said although different arms of the government are working to deal with the threat, a lot more needs to be done.
Bharadwaj said guidelines to deal with the problem were issued by NDMA in 2007 and these were even appreciated by other nations, he said.
"There has been a progress on the recommendations, but only in piecemeal," he said.
Tracing the history of biomedical warfare, Bharadwaj said Germans had used anthrax in the First World War while the Japanese had a battery of agents like cholera, plague, chicken pox.
"There has to be a better coordination between the different arms of the government. The agents that can be used for bioterrorism need to be defined to ensure preparedness. Of over 600 districts in India only 100 districts have Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) laboratories," he said.
Bharadwaj, however, added that the Ministry of Health has been taking steps to deal with the issue.
With newer threats like Ebola, Zika, W Selvamurthy, a former Distinguished Scientist at the DRDO, emphasised on setting up a central epidemiological database.
He said the database, which would include surveys done on epidemics, can help identify if there is something amiss in the case of an outbreak.
Selvamuthry also emphasised on making the best use of the biodiversity, especially in the Western ghats while coming up with medicines to deal with the issue.
Talking about the economic implications of bioterrorism, Jesper Elsgaard, Vice-President of Bavarian Nordic, a Denmark-based company said post 9/11, twelve people were killed due to anthrax.
Elsgaard also noted that over two-third of the population has still not been immunised against diseases like chicken pox.