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Biological Warfare - Some Facts
Courtesy: Council for a Livable World
In the case of biological weapons, the enemy is silent and often invisible. It is indiscriminate in choosing its victims, innocent people carrying out their daily routines. Anyone can become a victim and everyone is at risk.
The threat of biological war has existed for centuries. By definition,biological warfare involves any deliberate use of disease to attack humans, plants, or animals. Biological weapons have only occasionally been used, but they have the potential to inflict great harm. Unlike the materials necessary to produce nuclear weapons, microorganisms, toxins,and viruses that are dangerous to human, animal, and plant life can be found abundantly in nature. The technology needed to turn these agents into weapons is less sophisticated than what is necessary to develop
nuclear weapons. Furthermore, only a very small quantity of material is needed, much less than that needed to produce nuclear weapons, but could potentially cause a comparable death-toll.
Threatening Biological Agents
The most threatening biological agents change over time. Technology allows for some pathogens, which in their natural state pose only minimal dangers, to be genetically engineered into more threatening forms. Their availability in nature also changes and science continues to discover new pathogens. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled a list of today's most dangerous biological agents. They are segregated into three categories, depending on a variety of factors.
Category A agents are given highest priority regarding the need for public health preparedness. They are agents that pose a threat to national security due to ease of dissemination and transmission from person to person, result in high mortality rates, have the potential for a major impact on public health, may cause public panic and social disruption, and require special action for public health preparedness. Category A includes anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers.
Category B agents are considered second highest priority. They pose a risk to national security because they are moderately easy to disseminate and result in moderate mortality rates. Category B includes brucellosis, epsilon toxin of clostridium perfringens, food safety threats (salmonella, escherichia coli, shigella), glanders, melioidosis, psittacosis, Q- fever, ricin toxin, staphylococcal enterotoxin B, typhus fever, viral encephalitis, and water safety threats (vibrio cholerae, crytosporidium parvum).
Category C agents are given third highest priority. They are a threat to national security due to their availability, ease of production and dissemination, potential for high mortality rates, and impact on public health. This category includes agents that are emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination such as the nipah virus and hantavirus.
Category A Agents Fact Sheet
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