Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How and why the threat of bioterrorism has been so greatly exaggerated

How and why the threat of bioterrorism has been so greatly exaggerated

William R. Clark, professor and chair emeritus of immunology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been a research scientist for 30 years and has written a string of books for the general public. His latest, Bracing for Armageddon?, published by Oxford University Press in May, examines the science and politics of bioterrorism in the United States.

His conclusion: We shouldn't be so worried. Although the United States will have spent $50 billion on defense against a bioterrorism attack by the end of 2008, Clark argues that we have much more to fear from natural pandemic outbreaks, such as the viruses causing SARS and H5N1 avian flu. He reviews all the worst-case bioterror scenarios — from agricultural terrorism to poisoning the water supply; from genetically engineered pathogens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's official list of bioterrorist weapons — and writes: "It is almost inconceivable that any terrorist organization we know of in the world today, foreign or domestic, could on their own develop, from scratch, a bioweapon capable of causing mass casualties on American soil."

Clark chronicles the few (failed) attempts at launching large-scale bioterror attacks, beginning with the Rajneesh cult in Oregon, which slipped salmonella into salad bars in an attempt to influence a local election in 1984; the cult's efforts sickened more than 700 people but killed none. The Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan earned worldwide headlines in 1995 for releasing sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway system, killing 12 people. But this was a chemical attack, and despite millions of dollars in funding and a staff of scientists, Aum Shinrikyo's several attempts at producing biological weapons, including the development of a relatively harmless anthrax strain normally used for animal vaccinations, produced no significant casualties. In the early 1990s, a militia group called the Minnesota Patriots Council made some ricin — a potent poison derived from castor beans — and stored it in a jar but never figured out how to use it. And the 2001 postal anthrax attacks spurred the government to develop a host of expensive countermeasures that are, Clark writes, largely unnecessary. These include the creation of a Strategic National Stockpile of vaccines and antidotes; the CDC's "push packages," cargo containers weighing a total of 94 tons whose medicine contents are constantly replenished and ready to be shipped to an emergency site; Project Bioshield, which funds research for new vaccines; and the Biowatch and Biosense programs, which are early-warning systems of sensors and laboratories in major U.S. cities."


The Bush/Cheney and Rumsfeld defense ideas after 9/11 started this multi-billion dollar increase in biological research and creating new level 4 labs, why?

To comply with copyright infringement I have cut this to three paragraphs and you really need to go to the web site and read the full article
How and why the threat of bioterrorism has been so greatly exaggerated
thank you and I apologize to the copyright holders for the infringement

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: