WASHINGTON, D.C.— A new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Council on Public Health Preparedness met for the first time on 26 and 27 August. The recently-convened council is the U.S. government's latest measure to prepare for potential acts of terrorism.

Chaired by HHS public preparedness science advisor and bioterrorism expert D.A. Henderson, the council is comprised of 21 physicians, epidemiologists, and other public health professionals. Council members will focus primarily on biological weapons, but will also discuss the public health implications of chemical, nuclear, and conventional weapons attacks.

Henderson attributed the biodefense focus to the "special challenges" presented by a bioterrorist attack—even a small attack is likely to cause widespread anxiety among U.S. citizens and test what is currently an unprepared public health system.

The council will meet three times a year and the group's major responsibility will be to advise HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on appropriate disaster...

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