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  Montco Gains Air Sensors for Bioterror Alerts
Publicado - Published: 27/05/2007

NORRISTOWN.- Five sentinels are now on guard in Montgomery County to provide county health and public safety officials with an early warning of a bioterrorism event.

The federal Department of Homeland Security in the last two weeks has installed five "super-sensitive air monitors" designed to pick up biological contaminants, according to county Health Director Dr. Joseph M. DiMino.

The location of those monitors is secret, he added. The filters in the monitors will be collected on a daily basis and tested at a state laboratory, he explained.

If the filters test positive for pathogens such as smallpox or anthrax, "we will get an immediate report and can put our response plan into action," said DiMino.

The monitors, part of the federal BioWatch program, now are on in place in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties as well as Montgomery County, according to DiMino.

Additional monitors eventually will be installed in other counties throughout the state, he said.

"They picked the three counties with the largest population to start with," said DiMino, adding that he anticipates Montgomery County will get additional monitors as the program develops in the state. "The earlier we get notice, the quicker we can respond and the better off everyone will be," said DiMino.

The county's next line of detection is its medical professionals, who have been trained to recognize the symptoms of pathogens used in biological warfare and to immediately report them, added DiMino.

The BioWatch program was developed after the anthrax mailings in 2001 raised the awareness of officials and the public to the possibility of bioterrorism and mass casualties.

The concept behind the warning system is that treatment for a bioterrorism pathogen can get under way even before symptoms occur, resulting in fewer deaths or serious illnesses.

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