The threat of deliberate attacks with the use of biological agents is called bioterrorism. Following terrorist attacks in recent years the European Union has taken a proactive stance on this issue, reviewing existing systems of protection and minimising the health threats to the public.
Major objectives of the EU include: improved cooperation between Member States in the evaluation of risks, early warning and intervention, prevention of major accidents involving dangerous substances. Where such accidents occur, limiting the consequences for public health and the environment in a consistent and effective manner.
To protect the Community from the menace of bioterrorism, a Health Security Committee was set up in November 2001 to provide the coordination and consultation needed in the EU. Shortly afterwards, a programme of cooperation for preparedness and response to biological and chemical attacks was drawn up and a task Force set up a few months later. One of the key actions in the programme was the preparation and dissemination of clinical EU guidelines on biological agents likely to be used in terrorist attacks or threats. Since 2003, this task force has been part of the European Commission’s Health Threat Unit.
International cooperation has been established with partner countries and the WHO to ensure optimal coordination of worldwide preparedness, response and crisis management strategies regarding potential threats to public health from international biological, chemical and radio-nuclear terrorism.