Bio Terrorism Possibility, and Remedial Steps - News Vision India


15 Apr 2020

Bio Terrorism Possibility, and Remedial Steps

Infectious diseases were recognized for their potential impact on people and armies as early as 600 bc

Polluting wells and other sources of water of the opposing army was a common strategy that continued to be used through the many European wars, during the 
American Civil War, and even into the 20th century.

The plague pandemic, also known as the Black Death, swept through Europe, the Near East, and North Africa in the 14th century and was probably the most devastating public health disaster in recorded history. The ultimate origin of the plague remains uncertain:

During the same 14th-century plague pandemic, which killed more than 25 million Europeans in the 14th and 15th centuries, many other incidents indicate the various uses of disease and poisons during war.  

Another disease has been used as an effective biological weapon in the New World: smallpox. Pizarro is said to have presented South American natives with variola-contaminated clothing in the 15th century

Transmission of smallpox by fomites was inefficient compared with respiratory droplet transmission.

The description of these historical attempts of using diseases in biological warfare illustrates the difficulty of differentiating between a naturally occurring epidemic and an alleged or attempted biological warfare attack—a problem that has continued into present times. 

During World War I, reports circulated of attempts by Germans to ship horses and cattle inoculated with disease-producing bacteria, such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Pseudomonas pseudomallei (glanders), to the USA and other countries

Other allegations of attempts by Germany to spread cholera in Italy and plague in St. Petersburg in Russia followed 

Other allegations occurred during the post—World War II period (11):
The Eastern European press stated that Great Britain had used biological weapons in Oman in 1957.

The Chinese alleged that the USA caused a cholera epidemic in Hong Kong in 1961.
In July 1964, the Soviet newspaper Pravda asserted that the US Military Commission in Columbia and Colombian troops had used biological agents against peasants in Colombia and Bolivia.

In 1969, Egypt accused the “imperialistic aggressors” of using biological weapons in the Middle East, specifically causing an epidemic of cholera in Iraq in 1966.

During the 1970s, biological weapons were used for covert assassinations. In 1978 a Bulgarian exile named George Markov was attacked and killed in London, England. This assassination later became known as the “umbrella killing,” because the weapon used was a device disguised as an umbrella

In the late 1970s, allegations were made that planes and helicopters delivering aerosols of different colors may have attacked the inhabitants of Laos and Kampuchea (1, 7). People who were exposed became disoriented and ill. These attacks were commonly described as “yellow rain.” In fact it was highly controversial whether these clouds truly represented biological warfare agents. Some of these clouds were believed to comprise trichothecene toxins (e.g., T-2 mycotoxin

Biological weapons are unique in their invisibility and their delayed effects. These factors allow those who use them to inculcate fear and cause confusion among their victims and to escape undetected. A biowarfare attack would not only cause sickness and death in a large number of victims but would also aim to create fear, panic, and paralyzing uncertainty. Its goal is disruption of social and economic activity, the breakdown of government authority, and the impairment of military responses. As demonstrated by the “Anthrax letters” in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack in September 2001, the occurrence of only a small number of infections can create an enormous psychological impact-everyone feels threatened and nobody knows what will happen next. 

The choice of the biowarfare agent depends on the economic, technical, and financial capabilities of the state or organization. Smallpox, Ebola, and Marburg virus might be chosen because they have a reputation for causing a more horrifying illness. Images on the nightly news of doctors, nurses, and law enforcement personnel in full protective gear could cause widespread public distraction and anxiety. 

Bio warfare attacks are now a possibility. The medical community as well as the public should become familiar with epidemiology and control measures to increase the likelihood of a calm and reasoned response if an outbreak should occur. In fact, the principles that help clinicians develop strategies against diseases are relevant as the medical community considers the problem of biological weapons proliferation. For the medical community, further education focusing on recognition of this threat is both timely and necessary.

Primary prevention rests on creating a strong global norm that rejects development of such weapons. Secondary prevention implies early detection and prompt treatment of disease. The medical community plays an important role in secondary prevention by participating in disease surveillance and reporting and thus providing the first indication of biological weapons use. In addition, continued research to improve surveillance and the search for improved diagnostic capabilities, therapeutic agents, and effective response plans will further strengthen secondary prevention measures. Finally, the role of tertiary prevention, which limits the disability from disease, shall not be forgotten. Unfortunately, the tools of primary and secondary prevention are imperfect. While the BWC is prepared to assist those nations that have been targets of biological weapons, the medical community must be prepared to face the squeal should the unthinkable happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment