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Bioterrorism is a form of attack in which harmful organisms such as bacteria, viruses and other agents are released deliberately to cause illness or death to people, plants or animals. These agents exist naturally but can be modified so that they become more harmful to the targeted form of life, increase their resistance to medicines currently in use or to increase their ability to spread to the environment. These agents can be spread through water, some through food, some through water and some by air. Terrorists prefer to use biological agents as weapons because the agents tend to stay for a little longer time without being detected but spread very fast from one person to another and an example of these agents is small ox viruses. It is also a preferred weapon of choice by many terrorists because the biological agents are relatively cheap and easy to obtain, they can be easily be spread and can cause wide spread fear though they may not be harmful as thought to be. Though the type of warfare has its benefits, it also has a limitation of difficulty in employing it in away that it harms only the enemies. Some of the agents can affect human indirectly such as a pathogen that causes foot and mouth disease.
THREATS OF BIOTERRORISM
Bioterrorism can be traced back to thee time of ancient Roman civilization when feces were thrown to enemies faces. It further went ahead to the use of bubonic plaque in the 14th century to render enemies powerless by instilling fear on the civilians to make them evacuate their cities and also to destroy the enemy army. It proved futile because of the widespread disease to even non enemies and could not be maintained due to poor medical advance at the middle age. This lead to destruction of a large portion of
With the passing of time, the warfare advanced and become more complex Development of more effective and enemy specific Biowepons ensued. The most significant development of the weapon in history was the development and use of Anthrax which its effectiveness was first limited to large doses. It was a weapon of choice due to its ability to be transferred easily, its ability to cause high rates of deaths and its easy availability. Moreover widely used due to its inability to spread to populations those are not of target. At the time of the First World War, the use of Anthrax virus as weapon was widely directed towards animal population though it proved to be ineffective and therefore a new wit of use of mustard gas as a biological weapon cropped up.
Devastating effects of the biological weapon on humanity called for a treaty termed as the
Another incident of the use of Biowepons was during the Vietnam War of which Korea was widely accused for the use of the weapons but it was later dismissed as a mere propaganda launched to scare their enemy, the united sates of America army.
Thereafter, in 1972 the ban on development, production and making stock of biological weapons was put in place. Later in the 1980s there were allegations by the Americans that
Agents used as Biowepons are classified into three categories, category A, B and C, the first category is considered to be a threat to national security and being very harmful, easily spread and can cause high death rates and public panic. An example of diseases caused by the group of agents is Anthrax which is a non -contagious disease in nature. The causative agent of the disease is Bacillus anthracis. Other agents are smallpox, bubonic plaques, Tularemia and viral hemorrhagic fever. In category B, the organisms are moderately easy to spread in a wide area and are said to cause low deaths as compared to the first group. They include: Brucellois, Glanders, and Meliodosis, Ricin, Staphylococal enterotoxin B, Typhus, cholera and viral encephalitis. The last group consists of emerging pathogens that can be made in laboratory for mass dissemination due to their easy availability and production. It has been established that of all the weapons of mass destruction, it is the biological weapon that is the most greatly feared and every country has a challenge of tackling the problem. It is a great challenge to most countries because the agents are usually released silently and remains undetected until such a time that the effects are felt. The problem would require a very special attention, care and hospitalization due to the risks involved due to the infections. Incase of the disease outbreak, laboratory confirmation will be very essential but the agents used in bioterrorism are not common to the laboratory technologists and therefore it becomes difficult to carry out the right diagnosis and treatment of the diseases consequently large number of deaths are reported in populations affected.
Another major problem associated with bioterrorism is the difficulty to carry out quarantine in case there is an outbreak of a disease associated with it and in most cases trained epidemiologists would be expensive to hire so as to contain the outbreak.
In cases of reported bioterrorism there tend to be panic and fear of getting infected in large populations that are affected. This tend to interfere with the economy of country and also cause
Economic strains at family levels due to the cost of treatment and nursing.
Bioterrorism can have an indirect impact on human beings when some agents such as the one that cause food and mouth disease are introduced to a population of cattle, the productivity of the animals may be affected negatively and this in turn will reduce the gross income product of a country since agriculture is a major contributor to economies of many countries. In this case there’re would reduced food security and reduced standard of living due to the translation of the negative effects of the bioterrorism i on economic.
However terrorist attack by the use of biological agents can be planned and executed for direct harm on target populations. This can be don e by introducing the agents in cooked or uncooked food that are commonly used by the target populations. It can also be introduced by air and an example is an Anthrax virus which is very virulent. Due to the secret way by which the terrorists introduce the agents to a population it is difficult to detect and incase of any reported case or rumor fear of being infected may ensue. This can result in a situation where people do not go to their work places and this is translated to slow growth of economies. The worst effect of bioterrorism is considered to be psychological effects it leaves on the infected and affected population. For example in Maryland people were rushing to the clinics to be treated for nausea, headache and sore throat after a man sprayed a bottle on a subway station platform but later it was realized that the liquid was just a window cleaner. This scenario came up due to the experience of the past cases. Another incident similar to that occurred in a school in
From such incidents it is visible how fear and panic can arise due to a reported case of bioterrorism in targeted populations. This kind of fear has spread throughout the world and another similar incident happened in
At times an outbreak of a disease can be at individual level but due to rumors that it is an act of terrorism, the effects can be transformed to be a long-term one. For example a decade ago after the gulf war individual incidents that occurred transformed into a long g term effects due to claim that they were poisoned by chemical and biological agents despite the existing evidence that it was not so.
Another example of how bioterrorism can have psychological effect for along period of time is depicted where the
Following such incidents it is evident that outbreak of diseases due to Bioterrorism can cause a great panic among populations. Therefore every state should formulate proper guidelines on how to prevent such an event and how to contain Bioterrorism incidents. Since these agents are relatively easy to obtain by terrorists, it is important for every state to establish laboratories that work on advanced detection system, help in identification of contaminated areas and population at risk and help in provision of prompt treatment. This can only be achieved by cooperation between the public, law enforcement authorities and the health personnel.
By considering all the factors that give a loophole to bioatack and even the aftermath of the attacks it is important for every to identify means and ways of combating the problem at all levels by identifying the gaps, policy makers, stake holders and key players. It is also important to develop effective communication mechanism between the health authorities, the government and the public so that the disease outbreak can be prevented or managed more effectively. Strengthening of nation’s health infrastructure is important because this help in enhancing the surveillance and epidemiologic capacity to communicate, collect, analyze and share data. Another important tool to combat the problem is to engage public heath community workers and medical parishioners together in war against epidemiologic outbreaks due to bioterrorism .this can be arranged in such away that the public heath workers collect information from the ground and in form the medical practioners can understand the emerging disease trends and design appropriate prevention and control strategies.
It has been proved that the health policies and guidelines for diseases related to bioterrorism can not be successfully implemented without the help of law enforcement authority and the intelligence. For example public health surveillance and Federal bureau surveillance can work together to prevent the bioattacks and spread of diseases related to the bioterrorism. Another important tool is effective communication with regard to disease prevention and management among the vulnerable populations. Policies should be defined to support preparedness effort. On the other hand legal and regulatory measures related to quarantine of the infected individuals, use of certain drugs or vaccines, food and drug administration should be taken so that potential risks caused by the bioterrorists are thwarted.
Lastly challenges of informing g the public and educating them about the bioterrorism should be addressed. Frame work of understanding and support required to manage the crisis caused by acts of bioterrorism should be put into place. In conclusion Bioterrorism being a threat to the current and future generation, every responsible authorities and citizens should work together to bring it to an end.