• Senator Tom Daschle

A potential new role in biodefense for Mike Pence may be his most important yet

Imagine the nightmare:

“Nine weeks ago, terrorists unleashed insidious biological attacks on our Nation’s Capitol during our Independence Day celebrations. The infectious agent they used ultimately led to the deaths of 6,053 Americans. Many of our own colleagues and staff fell ill and died. Thousands more were killed in coordinated attacks in allied nations in the days that followed.

“The attack here in Washington, D.C. used aerosol delivery devices we could see, but did not know contained dangerous organisms. We discovered later that other attacks had already begun elsewhere in the Nation, using methods we have yet to identify that spread the disease among livestock in rural communities.

“Delays in recognition — because most veterinarians and physicians had never seen Nipah virus — meant animals and people were sick for more than a week before we realized what had happened. “And now we are being told that the virus, which in nature does not spread easily among people, was genetically modified to increase its ability to spread from animal to animal, animal to person, and person to person.

“Biological agents have now been used again to attack the United States, defying predictions and hopes that this would never happen. Obviously, those predictions were wrong.”

These are the first paragraphs of a hypothetical scenario the members of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, on which I serve, released as part of our report in October of 2015.

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