THE ABC OF A BIOLOGICAL ATTACK
By Manuel Cereijo
I. Are biological weapons dangerous?
Biological weapons are immensely destructive. In the right environment they can multiply. And so, self-perpetuated. And they can naturally mutate, frustrating protective measures. Chemical weapons, for all their horrors, become less lethal as they are dispersed and diluted. But even the tiniest quantities of disease organisms can be lethal. For example, botulinum toxin has been described as 3 million times more potent than the chemical nerve agent sarin.
And these are truly loathsome instruments of war and terror. Anthrax, for instance, takes three excruciating days to destroy the membranes of the lungs and intestines.
Botulinum toxin annihilates by slow asphyxiation, as the cells of the victim's breathing muscles die from within.
II. Have biological weapons ever been used in warfare or terrorism?
1. 6th Century BC. Assyrians poisoned enemy wells with rye ergot
2. In 1346 AD, plague broke out in the Tartar army during its siege of Kaffa ( now Crimea). The attackers hurled the corpses of those who died over the city walls. The plague epidemic that followed forced the defenders to surrenders
3. 1797 - Napoleon attempted to infest the inhabitants of the besieged city of Mantua with swamp fever during his Italian campaign.
4. 1931- Japan used cholera germs by lacing fruit with cholera germs, in Manchuria
Of course, there are more examples of attacks, attempts, and including Cuba's use of Chemical Warfare in the African wars during the 1970s.
III. How hard is it to make, store, transport, and deliver biological weapons?
IV. What could happen if a biological weapon were used in a city?
A US Army general has estimated that just two aircrafts, each carrying 1000 pounds of biological weapons over the U.S. could kill or incapacitate some 60 million Americans.
Any country with a medium size pharmaceutical and biological industry is capable of producing bioweapons.
A single ounce of Anthrax introduced into the air conditioning system of a domed stadium could infect the 70,000 80,000 spectators within an hour
An aerosol attack with anthrax spores in New York city area would result in more than 1 million deaths.
ESTIMATES OF CASUALTIES PRODUCED BY A BIOLOGICAL ATTACK IN A CITY WITH 2 MILLION PEOPLE OR MORE*
* Release of 50 Kg of agent by aircraft along a 2 Km line upwind (except smallpox)
1. Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 1997
2. Remarks by John D, Holcum, Fourth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, Geneva, Switzerland
3. Biological Warfare (BW)
4. Chemical and Biological Terrorism: The threat according to the open Literature
5. Biological Warfare: A Historical Perspective
6. The Biological Weapon: A Poor Nation's Weapon Of Mass Destruction
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