Killer Germs

Category : Editorial

Bio toxiris ere poisons produced by living organisms and their synthetic equivalents and are classed as chemical warfare agents if they are used for military purposes.

Although biological warfare, sometimes coiled germ warfare, has never been officially employed on the modern battlefield, the increased amount of research and testing of disease-producing viruses and bacteria tor military purposes has caused worldwide alarm.

Some typical examples of biological warfare agents might include: Anthrax, Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B {SEB}, Bubonic pneumonic plague, cholera, plague. smallpox, glanders, meliodosis, morburg and ebola Infections, lasso infection, machupo infection and may other hemorrhagic fevers and various encephalitis and other bio-engineered agents.

The threat of the international use or even accidental release of o airborne "class-4" biological weapon (BW) is, in some ways, far more frightening to analysts and researchers than that of a chemical release, for which there may be known specific antidotes and counter-measures. In the case, for instance, of a mutated or genetically engineered strain of Ebola or some hemorrhogic sever, there may be no known effective treatment. By genetically combining one of the particularly virulent bio-agents, tor instance, with a rapidly and easily spread common virus like the flu, the terrorist may be able to cause an unknown airborne spread of a deadly bio-toxin. (See article on 'Biaterrorism' published in January 2000 issue.)

Scientists point out that spread of deadly pathogens could lake place without any immediate recognition on the part of the emergency or medical community, until otter the incubation period is over and hundreds or even thousands of people had been infected.

During the first few vital hours of potential recognition of such a situation, analysts suggest that many emergency agencies would be suffering from on "information vacuum". With few expectations, they would not have immediate access to the needed medicines or supplies. nor contact with the necessary experts lo successfully resolve the situation.

Consequently the strategic plan to deal with bioterrorism must focus on the following areas

1. preparedness and prevention

2. detection and surveillance

3 diagnosis and characterization of biological agent

4. response and communication

Recent threats and use of biological and chemical agents against civilians hove exposed our vulnerability and highlighted the need to enhance our capacity to detect and control terrorist acts. We must be protected from on extensive range of critical biological and chemical agents, including some that have been developed and stockpiled for military use. Even without treat of war, investment in national defense ensures preparedness and acts as a deterrent against hostile acts. Similarly, investment in the public health system provides the best civil defense against bioterrorism. Terrorism-preparedness activities including the development of a public health communication infrastructure, of multi level network of diagnostic laboratories, and an integrated disease surveillance system, will improve our ability la investigate rapidly and control public health threats that is bound to emerge in the 21st century.


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