What is Bioterrorism ? Bioterrorism is terrorism by intentional release or dissemination of biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, or toxins. These are used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Biological agents can be spread through the air, through water, or in food. Bacteria Viruses Toxins
History Biological terrorism dates as far back as ancient Roman civilization. This early version of biological terrorism was used to destroy enemy forces. It continued on into the 14th century. The use of disease as a weapon in history exhibited a lack of control aggressors had over their own biological weapons.
Over time, biological warfare became more and more sophisticated. Countries began to develop weapons which were much more effective. One significant enhancement in biological weapon development was the first use of anthrax. This became a weapon of choice because it is easily transferred. During world war 1 the use of poisonous mustard gas became the biological weapon of choice.
How is bioterrorism such a threat? Terrorists may use biological agents because they can be extremely difficult to detect. They do not cause illness for several hours to several days. Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some like anthrax, cannot.
The world is largely unaware. They have long term consequences Rapid evolution Undetectable and easy transported from country to country.
Types of bioterrorism agents Category A agents1. Smallpox virus2. Anthrax3. Plague4. Botulism5. Viral hemorrhagic fevers
Category A This Can be easily transmitted from person to person. Might cause public panic and social disruption
Category C Category C agents are pathogens. These might be engineered for mass dissemination They are easy to produce and have potential for high morbidity or mortality.
Recent incidents 2001 Anthrax attack 2003 Ricin letter incidents
International responseThe 1925 Geneva Protocol Prohibits the use of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases and all analogous liquids, materials or devices in warfare ‘Customary international law’ Bans use not possession No-first-use-treaty
1972 Biological Weapons Convention First treaty to ban an entire class of weapons Prohibits development, production, stockpiling and acquisition of biological weapons Does not obstruct non-hostile use of biological agents but still covers future weaponisation of agents.
Protection against bioterrorism Physical protection Gas mask Immunological protection Mass Vaccination