Countering health threats by chemicals with a potential terrorist background - Creating a rapid alert system for Europe

A. Schaper*, H. Desel, Stacey Wyke, R. Orford, M. R. Griffiths, N. Edwards, H. Kupferschmidt, M. Mathieu, D. Pelclova, Raquel Duarte-Davidson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The acronym "ASHT" stands for "Alerting System and Development of a Health Surveillance System for the Deliberate Release of Chemicals by Terrorists". Imagine this scenario: 15 patients with respiratory symptoms following a concert in Rome and 12 patients coughing after lunch in a cafeteria in the Czech Republic; are these events related? Today these events would never be connected as there is no mechanism to allow EU Member States to share this type of information effectively. The main objective of the ASHT project was to improve data sharing between EU Member States. In part, this was achieved by an internet accessible EU-wide alerting system with the aim to detect the deliberate (i.e. criminal or terrorist) or accidental release of chemicals. Nevertheless more information from police, fire brigades and health professionals is needed. Methods: Description of the design, development, functionality and testing of the relational database system called "RAS-CHEM" (Rapid Alert System for Chemicals). Results: A database structure appropriate for the description of "events" with sophisticated retrieval functions was developed. For evaluation purposes 37 events were entered into the database including 29 scenarios and 8 historical mass intoxications. The alert level was "background information" for 21 events, "suspected mass intoxication" for 6 cases and "confirmed mass intoxication" for 10 events. Conclusion: The RAS-CHEM database works and will be integrated into the Health Emergency Operations Facility (HEOF) with other European Rapid Alert Systems. Poisons centres receive a large number of enquiries and could be important sentinels in this field of toxicovigilance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e63-e66
    JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


    • Chemical terrorism
    • Rapid Alert System for Chemicals
    • Toxicovigilance


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