The threat of bioterrorism is real and significant;it is neither in the realm of science fiction nor confined to any nation.Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of viruses,bacteria or other germs to cause illness/death.The germs are basically made more harmful by increasing their ability to cause disease,spread it,or resist medical treatment.They can be very hard to detect.Anthrax,Botulism,Ebola and other haemorrhagic fever viruses,plague,small pox could be used as biological agents.
Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain.Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors.The agents can be dispersed by spraying into the air by infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water.Delivery methods therefore include;aerosols,animals,food & water and person to person.
Bioterrorism is used to attack and intimidate people,governments and countries.In these attacks,only a small number of people may be injured or affected,but many more become afraid and change their behaviour because of fear.The progress made in biotechnology and biochemistry has simplified the development and production of the biological warfare agents used.
The use of biological warfare started as early as 17th century but it became more sophisticated during the 19th century.Koch’s postulates conception and development of modern microbiology during the 19th century made possible the isolation and production of stocks of specific pathogens.
Substantial evidence suggests the existence of an ambitious biological warfare program in Germany during World War 1.This program allegedly featured covert operations.During WW1 Germans shipped horses and cattle inoculated with disease-producing bacteria,such as Anthrax and Glanders,to the USA and other countries.The same agents were used to infect Romanian sheep that were designated for export to Russia.The Germans also attempted to spread Cholera in Italy and Plague in St.Petersburg,Russia.During WW2,Japan conducted biological weapons research.The program was under the direction of Shiro Ishii and Kitano Misaji.Several military units existed for research and development of biological warfare.The center of the Japanese warfare program was known as “Unit 731” and was located in Manchuria near the town of Pingfan.
The Japanese program consisted more than 150 buildings in Pingfan,5 satellite camps,and a staff of more than 3000 scientists.Organisms and diseases of interest were B.anthracis,Vibrio cholerae,Shigella spp and Yersiniapestis.More than 10,000 prisoners died as a result of experimental infection.At least 3,000 of them were prisoners of war.The prisoners died as a direct effect of experimental inoculation of agents causing Gas gangrene,Anthrax,Meningococcal infection,Cholera,Dysentry,or Plague.
Biological weapons are unique in their invisibility and their delayed effects.These factors allow those who use them to inculcate fear and cause confusion among their victims and to escape undetected.The main goal of a biowarfare attack is to disrupt social and economic activity,the breakdown of government authority,and the impairment of military responses.
There are medical measures to protect people against bioterrorism through biodefense.This includes medicines and vaccinations as well as medical research and preparations to defend against bioterrorist attacks.