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The global Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years has shown the weaknesses of the world to highly contagious viruses. The unseen impact of this biological agent on societies and their organizations has led to an array of extraordinary responses by authorities around the world. The pandemic has affected all dimensions of the security sector, including the military, which have been deployed to assist the civilian sector in fighting the pandemic in a broad number of countries.
Highly contagious biological agents may emerge in various circumstances. However, the occurrence thereof is preceded by incidents which may be intentionally created, as well as arising from natural disasters and mutations. The overall impact of highly contagious biological agents has always been enormous. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, global pandemics were high on the list of risks for global economy, which was proven in the past few years.
Deployed NATO forces can be exposed to a contagious disease during military operations from a naturally occurring disease or from the deliberate or accidental use of contagious biological warfare agents, emerging, endemic, imported, engineered, or agricultural disease, and/or “bio-mimickers”.
Regardless of origin, surveillance of a contagious disease outbreak must occur as soon as possible. This includes identifying, monitoring, managing and controlling the biological threat to maintain operational effectiveness and limit casualties. This is the aim of NATO’s bio-responsiveness ability: prepare and respond to biological issues by achieving capabilities in outbreak investigation, diagnostics, evacuation, isolation, and patient management. It includes the critical necessity to receive knowledge of the emerging outbreak and manage the information flow.
Optimally, when operational environment permits, NATO’s bio-response capability should be implemented in collaboration with civilian health and medical response organizations when those risks cannot be managed by a single nation or by the deployed medical task force.
The Alliance would like to seek adaptive measures of biological threats to help NATO military medical services prepare for and ensure the identification and monitoring of hazardous biological outbreaks.
In this fictitious scenario, NATO forces are deployed into a recently flooded region of an Ally that asked for assistance and support. Several days after the flooding, this Ally reported an unexpected increase in hospitalizations and deaths in this region, which appears to be caused by an undefined/unknown highly contagious biological agent(s).
After arrival of NATO forces, neighboring areas also reported an increase in hospitalization and mortality rate while many public/private GO and NGOs have already started investigating this outbreak by providing diagnosis capabilities. They will share the results with NATO forces as soon as available.
In this context, NATO medical forces aimed to support their forces but also local civilian health infrastructures based on their remaining availabilities. In addition, they were tasked to provide the overarching situational awareness and analysis based on the data collected from all involved entities and other sources.
For the given mission, NATO medical forces need an early warning and disease surveillance capability to deal with highly contagious biological agents, and to address water contamination. Your challenge consists of providing an approach to building these parts of NATO’s bio responsiveness.
Challenge statement: the Alliance is looking for solutions to identify, warn, assess and manage biological threats to protect NATO forces, Allies and civilian entities.
Focus should be on:
- Early warning systems and detection measures including identifying the population at risk / initial assessment, analyzing and consultation
- Surveillance including health control measures
- Interoperability between e.g. military, civilian health and research institutions, state and local management officials, surveillance analysts
- Water decontamination
Solutions can include any combination of methodologies, concepts, techniques and technologies.