You wake up early for work and kiss your family goodbye. On your daily transit you see a man drop a glass vial in the subway, but you think nothing of it. Moments later you become a statistic. A statistic of Bioterrorism. The threat of Bioterrorism, long ignored and denied has heightened over the past years and needs to be publicly addressed. There are three possible solutions to this threat that are within grasp. The first of which would be a nation wide vaccination against all agents that could be used against the American public.
Second, we could educate people to more efficiently spot the symptoms of such an act, or to protect themselves from an act that has already taken place. The last solution would be to prevent the act from occurring, detect it as soon as it occurs, and destroy the destructive pathogen used. Even with all of these solutions, an act of Bioterrorism is a major threat to the United States that could occur undetected and must be dealt with immediately in order to save lives. Biological warfare has been used from the cadavers poisoning water supplies, to modern technology allowing munitions, and advanced deployment of biological weapons.
Both nations, and dissident groups exist that have some of the most dangerous, and deadly pathogens, along with the ability to deploy them. Bioterrorism presents a threat to all people of the world, and will always remain a threat for three main reasons. One, it is very easy for anyone to obtain samples of harmful agents, such as anthrax or small pox. Two, an act of this terrorism could occur at any time, any place, and there would be no reaction for days or weeks. And third, many of the agents that can be used in such acts have no treatments, let alone cures.
If a group, or nation had funding and a moderate laboratory they could produce, and deploy some of the worlds deadliest pathogens undetected. For example, in 1995, the Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, released the nerve gas Sarnin in the Tokyo subway. The cult also had other plans set up. In its arsenal police found large quantities of nutrient media, Botulium culture, anthrax cultures, and drone aircraft equipped with spray tanks. Members of this group have even traveled to Zaire in 1992 to obtain samples of the Ebola virus.
Terrorist groups exist today that have a large quantity of diseases, chemicals, and viruses to choose from. Information on how to culture and obtain such things is available on the Internet. Deadlier samples of such viruses, as small pox, and even Ebola, may be just at the fingertips of major terrorist groups. After the cold war a Russian Bioweapons facility, Vector, became a high concern. Before the cold war, vector was a 4000 person, 30 building facility with an ample Biosaftey level 4 laboratory. The laboratory housed the small pox virus, as well as work on the deadly Ebola virus, Marbug, and the hemorrhagic fever viruses.
Any viewpoint you look at it from disgruntled person, terrorist cult, and Nation, Obtaining samples of these cultures isn’t whether you want it, it when you want it. If a terrorist group did happen to obtain these weapons, which is likely, using it is even easier. If a person were to drop a light bulb full of Anthrax spores in the New York subway, it could kill thousands, to hundreds of thousands of people. The agents’ anthrax, plague, brucellosis, small pox, viral encephalitis, and viral hemorrhagic fevers are of particular concern.
They are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, cause death or disabling disease, and can be aerosolized and distributed over large geographic areas. These agents can be released in small amounts, without anyone knowing for days or weeks, and can infect hundreds of thousands of people and cause many deaths. The most sever threat of Bioterrorism Is the fact that for many of the agents used, there are no treatments developed, and no cures. We are ill prepared to cope with a terrorist attack that uses biological weapons.
In counter terrorism efforts, the focus lies mostly with chemical or explosive weapons. A chemical release or a major explosion is a lot more manageable than a biological attack posed by Anthrax, or small pox. After an explosion or a chemical attack, the worst effects are over quickly. The extent of the damage can be assessed, deaths and injuries tolled, and efforts to rebuild and recover can get underway. With the use of small pox or Anthrax, day after day, additional cases could be expected, and in new areas. Finding ways to effectively fight back against Bioterrorism is difficult.
The first viable solution would be a nation wide vaccination against the most likely agents to be used in Bioweapons. If such a campaign were to take place then incidents involving pathogens against which people were immune to would, obviously, have no effect on the economy. This would be the main purpose for our Nation to employ a vaccination plan. However, there are several drawbacks to this plan. First of all, if our nation were to evoke this strategy it would take a mass effort to make all of the vaccines, decide which ones were worth giving, and getting the materials, and specialists to make the vaccines.
Having several vaccines for every US citizen would be nearly impossible, and cost tax payers a large amount of money. Also, cults, or nations would constantly be producing new or mutated strains that we would have to develop vaccines to. We would be in a constant game of catch-up. Relentlessly trying to figure out with what would come up next. Many doctors today haven’t even seen a case of anthrax or small pox, and even if they did, it is unlikely they would be able to efficiently diagnose the symptoms.
This problem needs to be fixed. Establishing a plan to educate doctors, nurses, policeman, and firemen. If a scenario occurred involving the outbreak of small pox on US soil, it’s almost certain that the act would go unnoticed until a characteristic rash appeared on the victims 9 to 10 days later. Most of the doctors present wouldn’t be able to diagnose the symptoms, and it would be several more days until the diagnosis was confirmed. By that time, the virus would have been passed to countless other victims, it would be too late.
The ability to adequately educate people to promptly respond to an act could be the difference between a hundred deaths, to hundreds of thousands of deaths. If emergency room doctors were taught the symptoms of such cases then it would be more likely to be caught earlier. If firefighters and policeman were taught to recognize an act at the scene, then it could be stopped even earlier, preventing even more human loss. Anyway you look at it; the early detection of an act of Bioterrorism will save lives. The last solution would be to “prevent, detect, and destroy”.
This is a combination of many ideas I presented earlier. This combination would include vaccination, education, and response. Because military, doctors, police, and firemen are all vital to a city, they would be given vaccines to the few most likely pathogens to be used. This act would put a safety net around the functions of any city, without putting strenuous strain on the economy. The second part, education, would involve all of the steps I described earlier. This would help us detect the occurrence of an outbreak quickly in order to do the third part, destroy.
This step is very critical, and important. After we have determined that there was an outbreak, then we must act as quickly as possible to quarantine, and destroy the harmful agent. In order to accomplish this we need a surplus of vaccines for civilian distribution. A network of laboratories capable of the need in an outbreak, and a far better group of trained epidemiologists, clinicians, and researchers. This solution would let us prevent an act from occurring, detect it quickly, and they nullify the harmful agent as soon as possible.
In my opinion, the best way to fight Bioterrorism would be to “prevent, detect, and destroy”. Going into depths on this topic, we can see that it provides us with two lines of defense, the prevent, and the destroy. However, the detect is vital part of this plan. Prevention has two meanings behind it. It implies that we prevent an incident from occurring all together. But it could also mean that we would not be affected by the pathogen used against us. The main thing to do is prevent a terrorist act from occurring is to highly regulate the use of harmful agents.
Restricting who, and how much could have deadly diseases, where it goes, and what it’s used for. Only letting high class viruses such as Ebola into high level security laboratories. If this were to take place, people of threat would have a more difficult time obtaining these cultures. The second thing to do would be educating policeman to spot acts at the scene of the crime. This would allow us to confine the outbreak to a small area earlier, and have a much easier time destroying it. Also educating our doctors to recognize cases earlier would keep the casualties down.
Prevention of a Bioweapons act is the main goal, but if it fails we must have a backup plan. Once it has been determined that a biological weapon has been used, confining the area of the occurrence is vital, this prevents the virus from spreading. No one in the confined area should be allowed to leave, and people entering must be protected with proper equipment. In order to help effectively do this we need to establish a local, regional, and national disease control system. The local system would be responsible to identify the specific virus, and determine the quarantine area.
Once this has been done, the regional team would come in and enforce the quarantine area, and also start a standard treatment for those patients. Once this has been done, the national team would start to determine a more specific treatment, and attempt to develop a cure. If no cure can be found, then the area shall be destroyed by any means necessary to eliminate the harmful agent, and maintain safety. If an outbreak did occur, then we shall do whatever it takes to minimize human life, without the cost of many.
Bioterrorism represents a clear and present danger to the United States. Out of All the solutions I gave, if nothing is done, then it is not if an act will occur, but when it will occur. Bioterrorism has already happened, and will continue to until we do something about it. In order to do about it we must instigate a plan of nation wide vaccination, education, or prevent detect destroy. If nothing is done, then one day on your way to work you could become a statistic, a statistic of Bioterrorism.