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Sensors throughout Austin monitoring for bioterrorism agents

December 23, 2019


PATTERN CONTINUE INTO JUNE?DR. HUANG:”UNFORTUNATELY IN THIS DAY AND AGE IT IS A PRESENT THREAT AND THAT IS WHY THIS SYSTEM EXISTS.”SHANNON: PREPARING FOR THE THREAT OF A BIOLOGICAL TERRORIST ATTACK. KXAN NEWS HAS LEARNED AUSTIN IS AMONG 33 CITIES IN THE COUNTRY CHOSEN BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TO MONITOR THE THREAT WITH A SPECIAL TOOL.2-SHANNON: IT’S CALLED BIOWATCH.2-ROBERT: AT FIRST THE DETAILS WERE KEPT SECRET. BUT NOW THE GOVERNMENT IS RELEASING SOME INFORMATION IN HOPES OF SPREADING AWARENESS.2-SHANNON: KXAN’S SALLY HERNANDEZ BRINGS US AN EXLCUSIVE LOOK AT BIOWATCH IN AUSTIN. SALLY:IN 2003, AFTER THE ANTHRAX SCARES AT FEDERAL BUILDINGS…BIOWATCH WAS FORMED.SPECIAL SENSORS STRATEGICALLY PLACED IN SELECTED CITIES LIKE AUSTIN TO MONITOR THE AIR FOR BIOLOGICAL AGENTS.DR. HUANG: IT IS ALWAYS WORKING, WE ALWAYS HAVE STAFF THAT ARE COLLECTING THESE DAILY.”SALLY:DR. PHILIP HUANG IS THE LOCAL CHAIR OF THE BIOWATCH PROGRAM. HE SAYS THE SENSORS WORK LIKE A VACUM SUCKING IN AIR SAMPLES WITH SPECIAL FILTERS, TESTED EVERY DAY AT A SECRET AUSTIN LAB.DR. HUANG SAYS “THIS IS A SYSTEM WE OPERATE TO MONITOR THE AIR 7 DAYS A WEEK, 365 DAYS A YEAR.”SALLY:SOMETIMES AT BIG EVENTS, LIKE AT THE CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICASGAME NATSSALLY:OR UT FOOTBALL GAMES….YOU MAY NOT SEE THE SENSORS BUT IT’S MONITORING THE BIGGEST THREAT YOU CAN’T SEE.JOSH SAYS:”BIOWATCH IS AN OUTSTANDING TOOL IN TRAVIS COUNTY. IT HELPS US LOOK FOR THINGS THAT AREN’T OBVIOUS TO THE EYE THAT COULD BE A THREAT TO US.”SALLY: JOSH DAVIES–THE HEAD OF EMERGENCY SERVICES IN TRAVIS COUNTY IS PART OF BIOWATCH AND SAYS DETECTING AND PREPARING FOR THE THREAT OF A BIOLOGICAL ATTACK IS DIFFERENT.IN THE CASE OF A BIOLOGICAL AGENT THERE ARE NO OUTSTANDING SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS AN EVENT HAS OCCURRED SO IT TAKES LONGER TO SENSE THE PRESCENSE IN THE ENVIRONMENT THAT’S WHY A SYSTEM LIKE BIOWATCH IS SO CRITICAL.SALLY: AND IF SOMETHING IS DETECTED, THERE IS AN ACTION PLAN THAT INCLUDES LOCALS AND THE FBI TOO.DR. HUANG SAYS “WE HAVE OTHER PREPARATION ACTIVITES WHERE GOING THROUGH THOSE EXERCISES OF WHAT WOULD WE DO TO GET EVERY PERSON IN OUR COMMUNITY WITHIN 48 HOURS LIFE SAVING ANTIBIOTICS. 3 06 50 SALLY:THE HOPE IS THAT TIME NEVER COMES.SALLY HERNANDEZ KXAN NEWS.ROBERT:KXAN HAS LEARNED THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AWARDED MORE THAN 2-POINT-7 MILLION DOLLARS IN BIOWATCH FUNDS TO FOUR TEXAS CITIES.OF THAT, NEARLY HALF A MILLION DOLLARS WENT TO PAY FOR THE AUSTIN LAB AND EMPLOYEES.THE QUESTION NOW – WILL THE PROGRAM CONTINUE? BIOWATCH STAFF TELL US THEY DON’T HAVE CONCRETE INFORMATION ON NEXT YEAR’S

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