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A Description Of Bioterrorism In Inferno By Dan Brown

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A View on Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism is the intentional circulation of biological agents that take the form of bacteria, viruses, or toxins. (Bioterrorism Overview) In Dan Brown’s Inferno, once Sienna describes the sequences of events that led to his admittance to the hospital, Robert discovers a cylinder with a biohazard sign in his jacket, which he chooses to call the “U.S. consulate”. Under present-day U.S. law, “bio-agents which have been declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety are formally described as select agents” of which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies agents A, B or C and oversees the Select Agent Program. (Clinical Management…)

An assault involving bioterrorism is the meditative discharge of toxins, bacteria, viruses, or further detrimental means, which have the ability to produce death or illness in animals, plants, or people. These means of assaults can appear in nature, but are usually altered or mutated to prevent medicines from curing them, to enable to a more widespread attack, or to enhance the disease aspects caused by these bio-agents. (Bioterrorism: Learn the Definition…) Bio-agents have the ability to travel through the water, food, or air. Terrorists usually use biological agents because of the extreme difficulty in detection, as well as not having an immediate affect on people (can take several hours to several days to create an affect). Similar to smallpox, some bioterrorism agents have the ability to move from individual to individual and some cannot, like anthrax. (Bioterrorism Overview)

Bioterrorism is an eye-catching weapon to terrorists since it can cause widespread fear and panic. Agents can be easily dispersed and are inexpensive and easy to obtain. Bioterrorism has some important limitations, according to military leaders who used bioterrorism as a military asset. One cannot simply deploy a bioterrorism attack and only kill the enemy; innocent people will be hurt or killed as well. Biological weapons are mostly valuable to terrorists as a technique to create widespread panic to a specific area. Technologists, however, have cautioned people of the possible influence that genetic engineering might provide for future bio-terrorists, for example, Bill Joy. (Bioterrorism Overview) “If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race.” (Joy)

Using anthrax, “a serious infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis” was usually used against animals during the beginning of World War I. This method of using anthrax against animals became ineffective, but Russia had decided after World War I to begin a “sabotage campaign” in Romania, France, and the United States. (Riedel) In 1915, Anton Dilger was asked to investigate glanders in the United States, “an infectious disease that occurs primarily in horses, mules, and donkeys.” (Bioterrorism: Learn the Definition…) In Chevy Chase, Maryland, Dilger set up a laboratory. He used dockworkers to infect the horses that were being shipped to Britain with glanders. Dilger was not arrested, but was always a suspect for bioterrorism, event though he was German agent. Dilger ultimately died during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 in Madrid, Spain. Russians detained another German agent who had similar objectives as Dilger did in 1916. (Riedel) “Germany and its allies infected French cavalry horses and many of Russia’s mules and horses on the Eastern Front. These actions hindered artillery and troop movements, as well as supply convoys.” (Biodefense and Bioterrorism…)

Several instances of deliberate anthrax attacks came about in the United States in September and October 2001. The United States Congress and news media offices began receiving letters containing infective anthrax. Similar means of attacks were taking place during this time as well.

The CDC categorizes agents (A, B or C) and administers the Select Agent Program, which regulates the laboratories, which may possess, use, or transfer select agents within the United States. As with US attempts to categorize harmful recreational drugs, designer viruses are not yet categorized and avian H5N1 has been shown to achieve high mortality and human-communication in a laboratory setting. (Biological Warfare…)

Category A agents create panic throughout national security, can be easily spread, allow terrorists to obtain a large amount of power, can create a large health issue base on a population, and requires more means of preparation in a time of crisis. For example, rabbit fever, or “Tularemia” can severely harm the lives of many, but has a low fatality rate because of available treatment. Also, Anthrax, “a non-contagious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis.” Anthrax can actually be cured using vaccination, if detected at an early stage. (Bioterrorism: Learn the Definition…)

Category B agents have low mortality rates but are easy to circulate. Like Brucellosis, “a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat from infected animals or close contact with their secretions”. (Bioterrorism Overview…) Category C agents are more available to terrorists but can be engineered to be more destructive and to spread easier. Examples include the Hantavirus, H1N1, HIV/AIDS, SARS, Nipah virus, etc. (Riedel)

Biological agents are becoming more of a threat to the United States and laboratories are enhancing early detection devices to identify contaminated populations at risk and accelerate rapid care. Large cities have priory in receiving early detection devices over urban areas because of the larger population. Other technologies are also being created to discover the biological agent’s origins. (Clinical Management…)

Phases of United States protection against bioterrorism include early detection response strategies in opposing bioterrorism, enhancing the equipment and capabilities of first responders, implementation of the Generation-3 automated detection system, and Project BioShield. Detection and resilience strategies usually occur in the Office of Health Affairs (OHA), a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), whose responsibility is to protect the American people in a time of crisis. The OHA’s BioWatch program involves detection devices being scattered throughout thirty or more areas in the country that are at high risk of attack. These devices “detect the presence of aerosolized biological agents” before indications become existent in individuals. Application of the “Generation-3 automated detection system” is significantly better because combat is automatically being made four to six hours after detection, whereas the BioWatch program involves aerosol detectors physically being transferred to laboratories. Developing the scientific proficiencies of first responders is accomplished through several different approaches. The first strategy involves assessing the correctness of detection systems used by first responders. A recently created device for first responders is Tyvex™ armor. Tyvex™ guards patients and first responders from biological and chemical contaminants. A production of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) has been enhanced to protect individuals against bioterrorism agents.

“New York City as an entity has numerous organizations and strategies that effectively serve to deter and respond to bioterrorism as it comes.” (Laboratory Response…) The first step in the process is obviously to prevent any events from happening. The accumulation of medical countermeasures (treatments and vaccines) for possible biological outbreaks has played an important role in planning for a possible bioterrorist outbreak. This took the form of Project BioShield beginning in 2004. The importance of Project BioShield should not go unnoticed, as “there is currently enough smallpox vaccine to inoculate every United States citizen and a variety of therapeutic drugs to treat the infected.” (Laboratory Response) A large amount of laboratories from The Department of Defense are currently “working to increase the quantity and efficacy of countermeasures that comprise the national stockpile.” Necessary steps have also been taken to ensure these restorative countermeasures can be dispersed efficiently if a bioterrorism attack takes place. (Biodefense and Bioterrorism…)

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