Armed Hostilities

Bioterrorist Attack Involving Botulism and Response

A hypothetical bioterrorist attack involving botulism or plague

January 1, 2012: The country has just celebrated the coming of the new year. Sales of consumer product stores reached their peak on the eve, i. e. on December 31, 2011. People wanted to celebrate the New Year rather pompously and considered food as an essential part of this celebration. However, on January 1, numerous calls were received by the emergency services from people who complained about breathing difficulties. Over 300 people were hospitalized and diagnosed with the initial stage of botulism (EMS, 2006).

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January 2, 2012: Healthcare workers became interested in the fact that all of the patients hospitalized on January 1 lived in the same residential area, shopped in the same consumer product store, and reported buying and consuming meat from the mentioned store on December 31. On the same day, police were notified about the coincidence, and the allegedly infected meat was analyzed in the specifically developed laboratory.

January 3, 2012: After the analysis results were available, it was confirmed that all samples of meat contained Clostridium botulinum, the anaerobic rod that causes the development of botulism in people. At once, the inquiry was directed to the mentioned consumer product store where the patients had bought the infected meat. The subject of the inquiry was the origin of the meat, and after the investigation, it turned out that the delivery documents for the meat were fabricated. Further investigation revealed that the meat was delivered to the store by unknown people. In other stores in the area, no botulism was detected. So, an assumption was made that the whole situation in question was a bioterrorist attack aimed at spreading botulism in people living in the area. At once, the Homeland Security Department was notified (Borelli, 2007, p. 68).

The natural vs. intentional outbreak characteristics

Obviously, the above scenario presents a situation involving an intentional outbreak of botulism caused by the bioterrorism attack. At the same time, if the outbreak of the same disease were natural rather than intentional, its characteristics would be different in some aspects.

In particular, the main difference would be observed in the character of complaints reported by people. Thus, the intentional outbreak of botulism was characterized by complaints from people from one location that bought the meat from a single store. Accordingly, it is hardly possible that the meat infected with Clostridium botulinum would be delivered to only one store because the scope of the natural botulism outbreak is far wider than the one necessary to infect the meat placed in one store (EMS, 2006). In other words, the first feature of the natural botulism outbreak would be the presence of infected meat in other stores in the discussed area.

Further on, botulism is a rather serious disease, and it is hardly possible that no reports were available to the authorities on its natural outbreak. In other words, a natural outbreak of botulism in various agricultural facilities of the area would have caused a ban on trading in meat and other agricultural products. Accordingly, the infected meet would not have been delivered to the store and sold to the customers (US Government, 2010).

Drawing from this, it can be assumed that the natural botulism outbreak would have been different in its character in two main aspects. First of all, meat infected by it would not have been delivered and sold. Second, even if such meat were sold, its effects would have been observed in different areas because the chance for all infected meat to be delivered in a single store is too small.

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The government’s response to the specific hypothetical bioterrorist attack

Thus, given the scenario in which the outbreak of botulism was intentional and was regarded as a bioterrorist attack, both the local and the federal government should take measures to mitigate the outbreak negative effects, to protect the people living in the same area but not infected, to raise the community reaction towards the bioterrorist attack, and to be better prepared similar attacks in future.

Accordingly, the first steps in this situation should be taken by the local government. The initial activity should be to close the consumer product stores in the area and to simultaneously deliver substantial food supply for the citizens inhabiting the attacked region (US Government, 2010). There is a probability that other products in this or other stores are also infected with Clostridium botulinum. So, such a step would allow avoiding the spreading of the disease. The stores can be open only after all goods in them are tested for Clostridium botulinum, and the results are negative.

At the same time, the investigation of the terrorist attack should be started, and here the Federal government should become active. In particular, the officials from Homeland Security Department should interview people that might have communicated with those who delivered the infected meat. Portraits, at least approximate ones, of the terrorists, should be developed and distributed around the country.

Finally, the proper health care basis should be provided to the victims of the attack and those who have the potential of becoming the victims. The most important point is that all these steps should be taken simultaneously. Wasting time regarding any of these steps might cause new terrorist attacks, and more people might suffer from botulism or any other disease used as a terrorist weapon (US Government, 2010).


Borelli, J. (2007). Bioterrorism: prevention, preparedness, and protection. Nova Publishers.

EMS. (2006). Botulism. Minnesota Department of Health Bioterrorism Information. Web.

US Government. (2010). Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security. Web.

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