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History of Biological Weapons, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 357

Essay

The use of biological weapons is an act of terrorism known as bioterrorism. MedicineNet, Inc. (2012) defines bioterrorism as “Terrorism using biologic agents that are harmful to humans.” The deliberate spread of biological disease is also considered an act of bioterrorism. The level of danger a biological agent or disease imposes determines to which category it belongs. The worst category has major impacts on public health with high mortality potential such as the spread of a deadly organism like smallpox. According to Flight (2011), one of the first known uses of smallpox as a biological weapon dates back to the 18th century when Colonel Henry Bouquet infected Native American tribes with smallpox-laced blankets to defeat them in the Indian War, for possession of what is now Canada. This tactic was also used in the American Revolutionary War and World War II. Since then, there have been threats and scares, globally, concerning the use of smallpox as a biological agent.

The fear stems from knowing how smallpox can wipe out an entire country, due to its high virulence factor. It is highly contagious. Mihelic (2006) reports that in the 20th century, more than 300 million people died worldwide from smallpox. Additionally, resistance factors for the disease can be very low, even in the presence of herd immunity to the disease.

Martin (2002) reports that pathology results show that smallpox in humans causes skin lesions, caused by inflammation and viral damage. When these lesions start shedding, it opens up opportunity for secondary bacterial infection to develop. The skin then erupts and a secondary viremia causes lesions in the throat and esophagus. The virus can also cause interstitial lung and kidney problems.

Symptoms of smallpox include flu-like symptoms, mouth and throat sores, progressive skin rash and blindness. Prognosis of the disease is grim, with no known treatment for it.

References

Flight, C. (2011). Silent Weapon: Smallpox and Biological Warfare. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/pox_weapon_01.shtml

Martin, D.B. (2002). The cause of death in smallpox: an examination of the pathology record. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12125845

MedicineNet, Inc. (2012). Definition of Bioterrorism. Retrieved November 11, 2012 from http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18548

Mihelic, F.M. (2006). Smallpox Biodefense: A Multifactoral Analysis. American Physicians and Surgeons, 11(2). Retrieved from http://www.jpands.org/vol11no2/mihelic.pdf

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