The United States is under constant threat of bioterrorism despite efforts to upgrade and maintain biosecurity. In the last decade the United States has actually become increasingly vulnerable to large bioterrorism attacks.
Bioterrorism refers to the use of any biological agent as a weapon for the purpose of political or personal gain. Bioterrorism is used by governments all over the world to gain control over land or a population in a form of non-physical warfare. Bio-terrorism, in the United States, dates back to World War 1 when anthrax was used to deplete the population of animals that were used in the American war effort. In the past two decades, the United States has seen an increase in the use of biological agents within the country. There have also been numerous attempts by other countries to make biological agents more readily available to the United States. Bioterrorism is mostly used in developing countries, but has recently proven to be a significant threat to the health and wellness of citizens in the United States. Bioterrorism is the intentional release of a chemical or biological agent with the intentions to harm or kill off a population, or food source. Also known as biological warfare, bioterrorism uses microorganism to cause larger amounts of damage in a non-physical way.
Biological agents spread through the air, water, food, or from person to person (Med J Armed Forces India). These biological agents can sometimes travel through a population completely undetected. The symptoms of bioterrorism attacks can vary from person to person. These symptoms can take seals or even months before they are ever noticed; by this time the attack could end up being fatal (Medline plus).
The agents used in bioterrorism that are focused on the misted by biosecurity are anthrax, plague, and viral haemorrhagic fevers because they can be very easily accessed. There is not one full proof way to prevent biological warfare but vaccinations exist for certain agents that are commonly used in bioterrorism attacks such as smallpox (Centers for disease Control and Prevention). Anthrax bacteria is one of the leading agents used in large-scale biological warfare and can be contracted in 3 ways. Anthrax spores can enter the skin of an individual through a cut or laceration on the skin causing swollen, itchy bumps.
. In most cases, contrary to what one might believe, the sore is not painful. Anthrax when released into the atmosphere can be inhaled.
Early symptoms are similar to those of a common cold or flu such as coughing and sneezing. Within less than a week the symbomtoms be worsen and the person can experience chest pains, headache, and a blue tint of the skin because of a lack of oxygen (Mayo Clinic). Most children will die of disease if it gets to this stage.
Ingesting Anthrax through undercook food or unsanitary food can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and fever. Some people may experience sores in their mouths and throats and swelling of their necks. The incubation period for all forms of anthrax is usually less than 2 weeks, although it can be as long as 2 months depending on the extent of exposure (Bradle, Peacock).
A likely target of biological warfare is a largely populated city or a densely packed area such as a stadium or a downtown area. For the terrorist, an advantage of bioterrorism is that in chaos of an attack they can very easily get away and it can be hard to track down the culprit of the attack (Nicholson). Another advantage of using biological warfare over traditional warfare is that the biological agents such as anthrax can be more easily made in a lab and cost less than more tradition weapons such as guns (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control). It is likely that some countries such as Iraq and Pakistan still mass produce dangerous biological agents to support known terrorist groups. Now with the advances of technology it is very likely that terrorist groups can launch large scale bioterrorism attacks (Toyin). Bioterrorism can have long lasting emotional and behavior effects on the victims of the attacks. Emotional consequences of a terrorist attack can include short term distress and anxiety as well as symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder. Behavioral effects include actions such as developing bad habits to help cope with the fear and other emotional consequences associated with an attack.
Behavioral consequences of bioterrorism attacks include new addictions to tobacco, alcohol, or other type of drug or substance, avoiding an particular area or isolating of oneself from a specific population or demographic.in the event of such attacks (Bruce). A sense of fear among civilians can develop as they hear about the events on the television and through other from of mainstream media. Knowing exactly how the public will act in response to a bioterrorist event is unclear.
The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that an attack from a biological weapon would result in five psychological issues for every one physical issue while other estimates of the ratio of psychological issues to physical issues range from 4 to 1 to as high as 50 to 1(Taylor). The United States government has taken steps in the prevention of biological warfare but the laws and policies put in place often go unenforced. In the early 1950’s the centers of disease control and protection created the Epidemic Intelligence Service to investigate unusual disease outbreaks in the United States. In 1972 many countries including the United States signed the Biological Weapons Convention that prohibits stock pilling biological agents for military purposes (Grudmann). About a half dozen letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to politicians in the United States following the 9/11 attack on the twin towers in New York. Since the anthrax attacks, the United States government has spent an estimated sixty-million dollars on bio-defence.
Additional funding that was authorized in 2002, has helped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invest in research to combat the dangers of biological warfare (Leonard). The events that took place on September 11, 2001, further advanced the need to enhance the security of the United States. Congress responded to the attack by legislating the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 which President Bush signed into law June 12, 2002 (Food and Drug Administration). The law allows the U.
S. Department of Health and Human Services to have the authority to protect the nation’s food supply against the threat of intentional contamination. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for developing and implementing these food safety laws(Washington State Department of Agricultural). Two of the main laws state that policies regarding biological weapons should prevent any biological weapon attack, and offer a response after a biological attack. While each is important on its own, together they make an effective, uniform plan against the use of biological warfare (Fidler 12). The first responders to a bioterrorism event would be public health officials and health care workers. In many cases, especially in more rural areas, diagnosis of the problem may be delayed, because medical providers and are not trained to identify and treat a patient with the disease agents of a particular attack (National Research Council).
Effective medical treatment may be restricted, and the possibility of a success treatment may be constricted because of the prolonged exposure to biological agents.The speed response to an attack could be the difference between life and death, as well as controlling a disease. A common misconception is that you can take antibiotics reduce your fish of contracting diseases from bioterrorism attacks but you should never take antibiotics unless your doctor tells you to. Over taking antibiotics can actually make certain forms of bacteria difficult to treat. Another misconception is that because bacteria and other chemicals can be release in a gaseous state, you should buy emergency gas masks. Gas masks would not be very effective in the event of biological warfare as they are designed for only short time use.
When not used properly, the masks can be actually be dangerous and result in injury or suffocation (Nightingale). The past two decades have seen a tremendous increase in the use of biological agents for purposes of releasing such substances to harm the public. The United States has been arguing that commercial patents and military defence must be protected and the investigation of biological agents within a state should not be communicated (Guillemin). The United States bio-defence effort has made significant advances in understanding the health and wellness threats associated with bioterrorism attacks, and have made further efforts to to protect the citizens of the United States from bio-terroristic threats. The Ebola outbreak managed to make its way into the United States despite claims made by the government to ensure United States citizens that there is no change of the disease entering the country (Leonard). According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all category A agents including Anthrax and the Plague are of major concern because they are easy to produce (Grumman).
The lack of sufficient medical countermeasures against certain biological agents and the inefficient ability to produce MCMs during a crisis is the United States’ first control. The security of a country is always debatable as humans are always subject to accidents, miscalculations, and incomplete information (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Bioterrorism is mostly used in developing countries but has recently proven to be a significant threat to the United States. Bioterrorism attacks, how matter how massive or small scaled they are can have long lasting effects on a population of people.
They also can lead to the rapid decline of a population if not properly taken care of. Though the United States had taken extensive measures to prevent such attacks, there is still a lot more to be done in the prevention and the ability to effectively respond to such attacks. Knowing exactly when an attack will take place or the magnitude of an attack will never be entirely calcuatable but knowing how to properly act in the event of such attacks can save a significant amount of lives.