The most recent meeting of the Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD) Center reiterated that agency's duty to build a national defense against highly contagious human and animal diseases.
As part of the US Department of Homeland Security, FAZD brings together stakeholders from government and industry to plan prevention of massive disease outbreaks which could cripple the nation by either:
- Overwhelming the US public health system
- Disrupting the food supply chain
The two-day conference at the center's headquarters in Texas A&M University's research park was part of the agency's collaborative effort bringing together epidemiologists, immunologists, pathologists, economists, computer scientists and imaging scientists, said the FAZD center's director, Dr. Neville P. Clarke.
"It also requires collaborations with educators, trainers and extension specialists," Clarke said.
The FAZD Center leverages the resources of 18 universities, five national laboratories and three DHS Centers of Excellence spread across 16 states and Puerto Rico. Its stakeholders include the food and agriculture industries, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, policy and decision makers at all levels of government, and state departments of agriculture.
The annual meeting provides a forum for the Center's investigators to exchange ideas, present their research, receive feedback from stakeholders, and to identify opportunities for new projects and products that add to the national bio-defense.
This year meeting participants heard presentations concerning:
- The Bio-Surveillance Common Operating Picture (BCOP), an electronic dashboard designed to collect and display a wide range of data and documents to support the National Biosurveillance Integration System
- The Universal Biosignature Detection Array, which allows the rapid detection of bio-warfare agents and hosts, thus speeding an effective response to an outbreak
- A test strip that will allow early responders in the field to detect Foot-and-Mouth Disease or Rift Valley Fever in minutes rather than hours, leading to faster responses to disease outbreaks
- An economic analysis of the Texas High Plains, which indicates that even a controlled outbreak could cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars domestically – and perhaps more internationally
Many participants also got their first look at the Dynamic Preparedness System, the adaptable electronic dashboard that provides the platform for the BCOP, which was on display during the annual meeting.
What's a FAZD?
The Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD) Center was founded in April 2004 as a Department of Homeland Security Center.
The FAZD Center develops products to protect the United States from the introduction of high-consequence foreign animal and zoonotic diseases, or "FAZDs." In this context, "foreign" means exotic to the United States and "zoonotic" means "transmissible between animals and humans."
At least 60% of all human pathogens are zoonotic, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 75% of recently emerging infectious diseases appear to be zoonotic.
The FAZD Center's website is: fazd.tamu.edu.