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Bioterrorism: History, Types, and Detection

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Historical Background of Bioterrorism
  3. Types of Agents
  4. Difficulties to Detect Bioterrorism
  5. Popular Targets
  6. Conclusion
  7. Reference List


This is an intentional use of harmful biological substances that causes danger to human and animal health. At the same time, they affect the plant, and eventually, the diseases can cause death to the living organisms. It has a long-term effect on point of attack. The biological substances may not have an immediate effect like the one caused by the nuclear or chemical attack but gradually causes illness. The most used biological substances are viruses, bacteria, and germs (Geoffrey, 2005). The substances are made in the laboratories and released with intent. This paper explains what is bioterrorism, gives a background of bioterrorism, and discusses the types of agents, what the world should do, and the difficulties to detect bioterrorism.

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Historical Background of Bioterrorism

The use of bioterrorism was first recorded in the sixth century BC when rye ergot was used by Assyrians to poison their enemies. This proved successful in conquering the foes. In 1346 during the siege of Kaffa, a chemical called purgative herb hellebore was used by Solon against the enemies. The chemical caused the plague to Solon’s enemies and they surrendered. In the twentieth century, 1979, there was the release of bacillusanthracis spore from soviet military micro-biology facilities to Yekaterinburg. This caused people to suffer fever and difficulty in breathing. A large number died. Anthrax and smallpox are the major viruses used recently. For example in 2001 the United States of America experienced an anthrax attack. This has led to increased advocacy against biological weapons by the United States of America and the United Nations. The use of biological substances can thus be traced far in history and there is a danger that some countries are still manufacturing them (Borreli, 2007).

Types of Agents

Biological substances can cause diseases in animals, human beings, and plants. They are made with an idea of the magnitude of the danger that they are expected to cause. They can be categorized into three depending on their risk and the level of damage that they can cause. The high risks are the ones that kill fast and easily spread and they don’t give a chance to the medics to develop medicine or vaccines. In most cases, the only thing that the doctors can do is to warn the citizens and keep the sick in isolation. They include Anthrax caused by bacillus anthracis, Ebola, and Botulism caused by clostridium bitulinutoxcin. The medium risk is moderate spread and cause death if not immediately attended to, they mostly spread through contact with the affected person, they include plague caused by vesini pestis, smallpox caused by variola major, and tularemia caused by Francisella tularensis. The low risks have a long-term effect on the original victim and give the medics enough time to develop medicine and vaccine. However, if left unattended they lead to death.

Difficulties to Detect Bioterrorism

The effect of bioterrorism substances is not immediate and thus can exist for a long period and manifest itself without being detected. It’s only after they have infected a person, animal, or plant that they can be detected. This time gives the substances a chance to change form and can sometimes overcome the available detecting machinery.

Over time, countries in their aim to be successful have developed more complex biological substances that get the medics of the target without the required facilities to detect them.

The mode of attack has always been changing and the target point has thus become unpredictable an example is the 2001 USA envelope anthrax attack, it was the first and its predictability was almost impossible (Sandra 2002).

In most cases, the target is buildings in busy cities, towns, and urban centers. The targets (buildings) are highly crowded, and the points are the ones a country of attack uses more often in daily activities. On the other hand, highly populated areas are points of attack whether there are existing buildings or not. The substances can attach themselves to the building’s walls for a long and thus have a continued effect on the occupants and those who will use them later. On the other hand, the spread of the substances and the disease therefrom is faster in highly populated areas due to ease in contact among people and inadequate sanitation facilities. Since the desired goal is to cause mass panic, the above places are more vulnerable to attack. This will attain the desired goal.

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Bioterrorism has a large effect and long-lasting on the lives of human beings, plants, and animals. Thus, world economics, governmental and nongovernmental institutions should join hands to advocate against the manufacture of these substances. Measures should be put in place for quick detection of substances at the earliest point of attack while physicians should develop vaccines and medicines to swiftly provide medicine to those people in case of an attack. Countries should sign and abide by international conventions that discourage bioterrorism.

Reference List

Barreli, L. V. (2007). Prevention, preparedness and protection. New York: Nova science publishers.

Geoffrey, L. Z. (2005). Agents of bioterrorism: Pathogens and their weaponization. New York: Columbia university press.

Sandra, M. W. (2002). Bioterrorism and political violence: Web resources. New York: Routledge.

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