Local Tech Wire

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State and SAS are teaming up to develop a bioterrorism attack detection and warning system through a $5 million federal grant.

The program is intended to provide alerts to health officials and medical professionals “within hours” of symptom outbreaks among humans or animals in order to “minimize damage.”

Called the , the system is to track data as well for food-borne illness, disease threats or other public health and safety issues.

The Department of Homeland Security is also involved in the project as well as the N.C. Division of Public health and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham.

"The goal of this groundbreaking effort is to save lives in the event of a major biological event, whether naturally occurring or manmade – to provide reliable early detection of an event and to inform a successful response by our public health system," said Congressman David Price, D-NC. "In North Carolina, we have the advantage of state-of-the-art health information systems and unparalleled collaboration among institutions that will be brought to bear in this ambitious effort."

Price, chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriates Subcommittee, helped secure the one-year grant.

Officials gathered Monday to launch the project at UNC-CH’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Leaders of the project are Charles Cairns, chair of the UNC department of emergency medicine, and Marc Hoit, chief information officer at NCSU.

Data to be gathered includes information from NC-DETECT, an existing surveillance gathering system to analyze emergency room and other information several times each day.

"Federal and state agencies are aware that the U.S. does not currently have sufficient ability to accurately detect and quickly analyze biological hazards to ensure public health and safety," Cairns and Hoit said in a joint statement. "Biosecurity depends on bio-preparedness."

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