Bioterrorism is generally a sensitive and frightening topic. Biological warfare and chemical warfare are silent and discrete but dangerous and deadly. Bioterrorism that involves and capitalizes on the use of infectious disease is something that should be considered with even more caution and deliberation. In recent years, more and more complex outbreaks have occurred in the United States, which has called for the need for local, regional, and national preparedness (Hughes). These outbreaks have comprised of bioterrorism attacks, some of which have used chemical warfare to induce non-infectious disease, such as anthrax. However, others have resulted in the spread of infectious diseases, such as the smallpox virus (Bureau of Emergency Preparedness and Response).
This research paper will explore the current threat of bioterrorism using both types of diseases, and how we can learn from this in the area of infectious diseases.
In 1978, the former Soviet Union supplied the communist Bulgarian government with a device disguised as an umbrella. In reality it was a weapon that contained ricin toxin and was eventually used to assassinate a Bulgarian exile named Georgi Markov (Bureau of Emergency Preparedness and Response). The reference made here should depict how creative a terrorist can be when there is an aim and using infectious diseases is a subtle yet effective way to execute an assassination. Infectious diseases are the number one cause of death in the world. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protoza are the four major types of germs that can lead to infectious diseases (US National Library of Medicine). These diseases are caused by germs that can be accessed and developed by someone with a relatively novice background in scientific experimenting.
However, in most cases bioterrorism those with connections to large quantities and variety of agents have executed attacks.
Events of this nature, albeit varied in implementation have been repeatedly throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. In 1918 the army formed a biological weapons section and tested their weapons on prisoners of war. In 1915, Dr. Anton Digler developed a facility where large quantities of anthrax and glanders bacteria (Bureau of Emergency Preparedness and Response).
Since then, the activity in these matters has been growing and as technology makes its advances and those with less resources available are gaining the capabilities to produce monstrous results. These matters must be dealt with accordingly, especially considering the fact that the same principles, which have produced non-infectious disease attacks, can be applied to those that produce infectious disease. Let us consider smallpox disease. In the Indian and English war, before there was a vaccine for smallpox, the English provided Indians with blankets previously used by smallpox carriers. The result was a huge outbreak in the disease among the Indians. Since the eradication of worldwide vaccination, the ability to produce the smallpox agent has been recovered (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). This is naturally a valid cause for worry.
Some may argue that investing in preventative measures is a waste of money because there is no realistic way of knowing when or where the disease will strike. These people will argue that instead we should focus on why the agent is being produced in the first place. In essence, to get to the root of the problem instead of just attempting a quick fix. In the long run this may be true and it does seem logical. However, such a problem cannot be solved if the terrorism continues.
If terrorists see that there is no opposition creating friction, we will create a world of opportunity for them, and there will be no long run to fix.
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