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UF Workshop to Address Threat of Insect-Based Terrorism

Pesticide Issues

A workshop at the University of Florida May 20-22 will look at the possibility of an unusual but potentially massive form of insect-based terrorism that could be launched in Florida.

| May 17, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A workshop at the University of Florida May 20-22 will look at the possibility of an unusual but potentially massive form of insect-based terrorism that could be launched in Florida. This workshop, titled “Counteracting Bioterrorist Introduction of Pathogen-Infected Vector Mosquitoes,” deals with the use of pathogen-laced mosquitoes to spread a deadly disease.

Former Gov. Bob Graham, co-author of one of the most authoritative studies of terrorist threats against the United States, “World at Risk,” will give the plenary address at the event, discussing the overall bioterrorism threat. Though attendance at the workshop itself is by invitation only, the public is invited to attend Graham’s address at 7 p.m. May 20 in Pugh Hall’s MacKay Auditorium, Room 170.

How real is the threat? Many of the world’s most dangerous pathogens already are transmitted by arthropods, the animal phylum that includes mosquitoes. But so far the United States has not been exposed to a large-scale spread of vector-borne diseases like Rift Valley, chikungunya fever or Japanese encephalitis. But terrorists with a cursory knowledge of science could potentially release insects carrying these diseases in a state with a tropical climate like Florida’s, according to several experts who will speak at the workshop.

Co-sponsored by UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory and the USDA Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, the two-day workshop will bring together experts from a wide variety of disciplines at the state and national level to assess the threat of using mosquitoes as weapons and the preparations the state could take to stave off such an attack.

Currently, there is no organized plan at any governmental level to develop the resources for mosquito control that would prevent such an attack.

Graham’s plenary address will also be streamed live on May 20 at www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu.

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service provides students with opportunities to train for future leadership positions, meet policymakers and take courses in critical thinking, language learning and studies of world cultures. Its mission is to foster public leadership and solve issues related to the Americas and homeland security. It also serves as a magnet to attract distinguished scholars and speakers to Florida.

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