Perhaps the greatest threat America faces today, greater than the nuclear threat, is the spectre of terrorist use of biological weapons. This article is an examination of that threat and what everyone needs to know about it.
DEFENSE AGAINST BIOLOGICALS…
This is a three part examination of the contemporary biological/toxin weapons threat which faces the world on the eve of the new millennium; it is written with especial purpose and particular emphasis on helping educate and prepare the average individual to understand, prepare for, and protect against a `worst case' biological threat of the highest magnitude, should it ever materialize.
PART ONE: THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
The Chemical Warfare Convention (CWC). Several years ago the final deadline for ratification of the world wide Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) fell due; despite much contentious argument by the USA, Russia and China over provisions and ramifications, last minute negotiations between the major hold-outs were unsuccessful and the CWC was put into general effect.
Official US hesitation to endorse the treaty was (and still is) based upon criticisms that the convention is too weakly written, has too many loopholes, legal discrepancies, and numerous ineffectual enforcement mechanisms, thereby rendering it inadequate for the purpose of controlling the development, maintenance, and proliferation of chemical weapons. Proponents argued that even a less than ideal treaty for chemical weapons control is better than none at all. The issue, as might be imagined, was a highly controversial one in which much emotional and intellectual argument is still being exchanged.
While the world debates the important issue of how to eliminate chemical weapons of mass destruction, a fact that is frequently overlooked is that the Chemical Weapons Convention is limited exclusively to only one half of the two fold threat posed by chemical and biological weapons technology of the next decade. Solely dedicated to elimination of chemical weapons among the nations of the world, the CWC does not address itself in any respect to the far more ominous hazard presenting itself as the world prepares to enter the 21st Century: the specter of regional use of biological agents for political ends.
THE BIOLOGICAL AND TOXIC WEAPONS CONVENTION (BTWC)
Chemical agents have frequently been referred to as "the poor man's weapon," an allusion to the fact that the formulation, production and deployment costs of chemical weapons are far less than for the highly sophisticated weapons technology systems favored by the world's superpowers. Assuming the accuracy of this surmise, it may be further suggested that biological agents might therefore be logically considered the "poor man's nuclear bomb," since gram for gram the lethal potential of biologicals vastly exceeds (to the extent of several orders of magnitude) that of chemical agents. And while the world appears resolved to control the use of chemical weapons in warfare, the same dedicated resolve is not yet being brought to bear on the matter of biologicals despite world wide awareness of the potentially monumental problems biologicals pose as we near the end of the century.
At present, tentative initial efforts are being made to formulate a satisfactory treaty instrument for a proposed Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC), although the issues facing proponents of a world wide moratorium on biologicals promise to be even more enormously complex and controversial than those implicit in the CWC. Using the hesitant, uncertain progress of the CWC as a measuring stick, it is safe to say that a considerable length of time is likely to pass before anything resembling an adequate and widely acceptable proposal for control of biological weapons is ready for ratification by the nations of the world. That, of course, leaves us faced by weapons whose potential theoretically far surpasses any horrors thus far experienced from the use of chemical weapons of war: the prospect for social chaos, death and destruction which the use of biological agents might unleash upon a largely unprepared world is almost beyond imagination. The possession of these weapons by belligerent nations is bad enough, but the real nightmare is the thought of biologicals used tactically by terrorists and political partisans.
An ancient weapon of convenience, contrary to what one might think, the use of biological agents in warfare is not a modern phenomenon. Historical documents reveal that bacteria, viruses and fungi have been used as weapons to achieve political and military purposes both deliberately and unwittingly consistently throughout the past 2000 years. Reports of regional conflicts or tribal wars in which the enemy's common water supply was deliberately contaminated are almost as old as humanity itself, and in several incidents recorded during the Middle Ages historical accounts describe offensive actions in which defenders catapulted their dead casualties and diseased corpses over besieged castle walls into the midst of the enemy. From both a biological and psychological standpoint, the effect on the attackers is easily imagined.
Even in relatively recent times, biological agents appear to have figured substantially in American history. In the late 1800s, for instance, blankets contaminated by the smallpox virus (which normally claims 1 to 30°/a mortality, even in heterogeneous populations sharing normal antibodies) came near to eliminating whole tribes of American Indians after being distributed by the US Indian Agency, apparently with deliberate intent. There are many other documented instances of this sort (involving use of smallpox to spread contagion among indigenous populations) on record throughout the world. Aside from these simple attempts at suspected genocide, some well known forms of biologicals, such as Yersinia pestis (popularly known as Plague, or the Black Death) and Small Pox, have appeared repeatedly over past centuries.
The First World War saw use of biologicals by Germany to infect Romanian cavalry horses with glanders. Japan's extensive biological research and field experimentation on the Manchurian Chinese during the Second World War, is now being more fully disclosed. Biologicals of the mycotoxin group (fungal agent T 2, among others) were purported to have been used in the mix of agents (popularly referred to as Yellow Rain) against various Mid and East Asian tribes in areas under former Soviet control, throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Regardless of the fact that most of the research in biological warfare has continued under very tight security, our knowledge of biologicals for both war and peaceful use has progressed impressively over the past decades. However, despite this fact, some recent discoveries most notably the Ebola virus discovered in Africa appear to be relatively new to Western understanding and pose the challenge of even more frightening possibilities for death and debilitation. These recently isolated biological entities herald a new level of heightened concern over the possible use of their effects as a weapon.
EMERGENCE OF AN OLD THREAT IN NEW FORM
Even as we presently address the recognized threat potential of chemical agents of war, the world wide community of specialists in NBC research and protection technology perceives that a far more perfidious danger exists in the possible use of biological agents by small, non national, partisan or sectarian terrorist groups to achieve political aims. Biological agents are, as has been mentioned, relatively simple to culture, produce and store. They are furthermore comparatively easy to hide, stockpile, and relocate rapidly to keep them from being discovered. Although sophisticated, costly laboratory facilities permit large scale preparation of biologicals, even basic low tech equipment (including ordinary petri dishes, easily obtained common laboratory items, and hobby grade `chemistry set' instruments) may be used to quickly produce lethal quantities of deadly BW agents.
The scenario of terrorist use of biologicals to create widespread death and social chaos for political purposes is currently being explored as a laboratory model by a number of international defense research groups investigating the possible emergence of biologicals in this form of use. Many feel that far from being merely possible, it is simply a matter of time before the first disastrous incident of this kind takes place in a densely populated urban setting. Advanced warning of the potential dangers posed by terrorist use of biological agents was given when it was found that members of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult, in addition to manufacturing, storing, and using deadly Sarin nerve agent (US military designation: Agent GB), visited Africa in attempts to obtain specimens of the Ebola virus. The greater intent of their effort may only be imagined at, although this particular incident is merely one in a recent number of similar instances involving efforts made by socially or politically deviant fringe groups to develop (or obtain) biologicals for use as weapons. Further underscoring of an unhesitating willingness to use such deadly weapons on innocent civilians was of course provided by the sensational Aum Shinrikyo instigated Sarin Tokyo subway attack of 1995.
THE WARNING OF IRAQ’S EXAMPLE
In addition to the lethal toxicity of many biologicals, another aspect of the danger they pose is the fact that there are currently no satisfactory systems capable of providing reliable early warning or even basic detection of biological agent use. Perfectly highlighting the critical concerns over this particular aspect of the problem is the example provided by discovery of the extensive biological research programs conducted by Saddam Hussein's regime in the late 1980s. Although almost all of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons research was found to have been dedicated to development of fatally toxic or incapacitating agents, the discovery of select Iraqi programs focusing upon use of biologicals to inflict subtle but severe, long term disablement (through exposure to relatively low concentrations of certain carcinogenic substances) was a completely unexpected finding.
According to the United Nations Special Commission on Munitions (UNSCOM), Iraq exhaustively investigated the use of the mycotoxins (fungal toxins) as weapons particularly a specific entity known as aflatoxin (a toxin produced by Aspergillus flavus). Initial studies on cultivation of aflatoxin for possible war use began in 1988 at the Al Sahnan facility in Iraq. Testing there indicated that exposure to high concentrations of this naturally occurring toxic fungal byproduct (most frequently found as a contaminant of grain or peanut crops) caused immediate death, while exposure to low concentrations of the highly carcinogenic toxin appeared to provoke development of progressive liver cancer. It also appeared frequently to stimulate a strange assortment of bizarre physical symptoms, fitting no previously known disease profile. Interestingly, low concentration aflatoxin exposure was shown to initially produce only mild, negligible flu like symptoms of brief duration (such as nasal congestion, sneezing, eye watering, etc.), followed by no further evidence of discernible disease processes until the appearance of aggressively metastasizing neoplasms years later.
By 1990, Iraq had begun large scale `weaponization' using aflatoxin; eventually, more than 410 of Iraq's estimated 572 gallons of highly concentrated aflatoxin were loaded into munitions. In investigations conducted subsequent to the end of the 1991 Gulf War, UNSCOM investigations disclosed that Iraq possessed (among a total inventory of stockpiled biological weapons whose numbers are still fully undetermined) some sixteen 8400 aerial bombs filled with aflatoxin and two Al Abbas (Iraqi SCUD B extended range missile variant) aflatoxin loaded warheads at the onset of Gulf War hostilities. Although UNSCOM efforts continue to determine more precisely the full extent of the Iraqi biological agent research and production programs, factual retroactive assessments were (and arc still) hindered by continuing Iraqi failure to fully disclose documentation and turn over complete data on their unconventional BW research program. Furthermore, current intelligence suggests that these programs covertly continue at the present time, despite post war destruction of Iraq's munitions, close scrutiny of their former CBW research activities, and subsequent careful Western monitoring of Iraq's remaining offensive capabilities.
A QUESTION OF EXPOSURE
Although there appears to be no actual evidence that any biologicals were ever deliberately deployed in an offensive attack against Gulf War troops, one of the many important reasons for present intense concern over the matter is a recurring question of the possible link which biologicals might have played in creating the bizarre, atypical symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome. At the time of the Gulf War, as has already been mentioned, although marginal CW detection systems existed, none of the Allied Coalition Forces had functional biological agent detection and warning instrumentation. Post war revelation of incidents such as the February 1991 Iraqi missile air burst which sprayed US Navy Petty Office 2nd Class Nicholas Roberts (and others in his Alabama Naval Reserve Seabees unit) with an unidentified mist takes on a new and ominous relevance, seen in the light of these deficits and uncertainties. As is the case with a number of other Gulf War veterans, P02C Roberts is now suffering from cancer of the lymph system. His example of suspect BW exposure is not unusual, nor is his experience in the Gulf War unique.
Circumstances such as this, considered together with Iraq's demonstrated interest in the development of highly unconventional CBW agents, and the existence of Libyan leader Moammar Khaddafi's continuing support of clandestine CBW programs, provide ample cause for concern that these deadly weapons may have already been used without Western knowledge on the Gulf War battlefield. In the context of these known facts associated with possession of biologicals by well funded national entities, the thought that BW agents might in future end up in the hands of small, elite, highly organised terrorist groups for use against innocent civilian populations is not that speculative a prospect.
DEFENSE AGAINST BIOLOGICALS
Excluding the impact of their immense psychological considerations, biological agents (along with chemical agents) are the only weapons of war against which completely effective immediate defense is available. This is not the case with 1000 pound conventional high explosive bombs, nor is it a characteristic of nuclear weapons, against both of which there is virtually no absolutely certain protection possible. Fortunately, the same protective measures and defensive strategies which provide safety from chemical agents will in virtually all instances provide a high measure of protection against biologicals. Individual and collective protection equipment (such as individual respirators and filters, sealed shelters and collective filtration systems) are all quite effective against the immediate effects of an attack by biological agents.
During the Gulf War of 1991, the United States was suddenly faced by the prospect of having to defend against both chemical and biological weapons after a full decade of failing to fully prepare, despite full knowledge of Iraq's unhesitating use of nerve and mustard agents during its war with Iran in the mid to late 80s, for the first real possibility of encountering CB weapons since 1918. A moderate level of readiness was maintained by US forces prior to 1991, but American protective capability in NBC protection at the time of the Gulf War was dated and relied upon near obsolescent equipment first entering service back to the early 60s. Long overdue for upgrading of basic NBC defensive materiel, training, and techniques, as well as needing overall enhancement of its strategic and tactical NBC protection planning, the US was not as well prepared for CB war as were some of its NATO allies.
One result of the sudden realization of this inadequacy was that in the haste of preparing for the anticipated challenge, unproven and not fully researched protective concepts were perfunctorily grasped at and put into effect. The use of Pyridostigmine as a prophylactic nerve agent premedication for troops is an excellent example of one such hasty measure undertaken at the last minute; post Gulf War studies now show that the Pyridostigmine is not completely without substantially deleterious side effects in certain individuals especially with relation to synergistic reactions with other substances.
Examples of the American failure to provide satisfactory NBC protection such as this and others like it, reflect extremely short sighted US military planning in recent years for maintenance of the sort of high level chemical and biological defensive capability that might be properly expected of the world's most formidable military power.
THE REAL PROBLEM
That the best possible protection must be maintained to provide adequate immediate defense against CB agents is inarguable. There are, however, other subtler considerations which demand an even higher level of concern: in addition to critical BW detection and warning concerns, the post attack consequences of the use of biologicals remain among the most perplexing challenges facing us today. Further, unlike chemical agents which usually disperse relatively quickly, the delayed secondary and long term (tertiary) outcomes of biological agent use are almost certain to be far more damaging than the initial effects, severe though they may be. Depending upon the agent in reference, everything in a given environment contaminated with lethal or lingering biologicals principally water and food sources may be affected for a period of time lasting from a few days to months, years, or even decades.
For this reason, mere possession of physical defensive equipment (individual respirators, filters and sealed collective shelters) takes on a considerably reduced importance in the far greater, overall problem of coping with the long term aftermath of biological attack. Furthermore, the inherent difficulty of protecting against the residual effects of B W adds increased urgency to international attempts to control their use and proliferation. Unfortunately, while the erstwhile `civilized' nations recognize the wisdom of an international BW treaty, terrorists (separatist and political or religiously motivated extremist groups) are `outlaws' who do not come under the jurisdiction of a treaty such as the envisioned BTWC. It is not difficult to understand the compelling and complex challenge of attempting to end the threatened use of biological weapons by modern nations, through adoption of a formal instrument of international agreement; but given the simplicity with which biologicals may be produced and the costliness of defending against them, it is difficult to conceive of how adequate measures may be devised to keep biologicals effectively out of the hands of extremists. It is they who are far more likely to be instigators of a BW attack than a recognized national entity, and consequently they pose a far more urgent threat needs to be effectively dealt with.
Specifics of biological weaponry. In the next segment, Part Two: Types of BW agents, dispersal & transmission, we shall review the range of biological war agents currently recognized as constituting the greatest danger in the present decade.
PART TWO: TYPES OF BW AGENTS, DISPERSAL & TRANSMISSION
INTRODUCTION TO BIOLOGICAL AGENTS
Biological warfare is, seen from one perspective, the use of micro organisms, or their byproducts (toxins), to inflict injury and death on macro organisms. Traditionally, biological micro organisms used for warfare have fallen into three main categories: viruses, bacteria and fungi. Additionally, toxins, or hazardous byproducts of micro organisms, have been included in this group of substances capable of being utilized deliberately for warfare purposes. Although their central importance in warfare has been to kill or severely injure human beings, they may also be used effectively to destroy plant life and domestic animals, thus crippling a nation's food supply and economy.
Among the oldest weapons of war far older than chemical or nuclear arms biological agents are relatively simple to create and economical to produce. They are also easy to store, hide and move to prevent discovery; furthermore, only very small amounts can be used covertly to achieve very deadly, widespread effects, thus earning biological agents the cachet of "poor man's nuclear bomb." Consequently, BW lends itself particularly well to terrorist and guerrilla applications.
While biologicals may be employed to inflict great harm on an enemy, not all biological substances lend themselves to use as weapons of warfare. Additionally, the effects of B weapons are not immediate, as is the case with conventional arms and chemical and nuclear weapons, and although full development of their potential takes time (frequently taking from hours to weeks or longer) and does not have instantaneous impact, the ultimate outcome of their use can frequently be far more disastrous, in terms of overall impact. Finally, unlike conventional, chemical or nuclear weapons, inanimate materiel is not affected by their dissemination; only larger lifeforms and live organic material are affected. There are both formidable disadvantages applicable as well as significant benefits obtainable in the use of biological agents as weapons of war, most of the former having to do with controlling their effects, once deployed, to achieve the desire result.
CLASSICAL BIOLOGICAL AGENTS
Viruses are the simplest type of micro organism and are comprised of a central component of chromosomes, surrounded by a protein layer. Viruses are far more minute than bacteria, ranging from 0.02 pm (1 ~tm being 1 one thousandth of a millimeter) to about 0.2pm in size. Lacking reproductive mechanisms, they interact symbiotically with their host cells and are therefore properly regarded as synergistic intracellular parasites. Viruses need to establish a complex interaction with a specific type of host cell and characteristically exert so much damage on these cells that they invariably kill them. Viruses may be spread by respiratory transport or by direct contact. Some varieties of virus thrive only in the upper respiratory tract, where they create local infection and may be transmitted naturally by sneezing or coughing. Other types of virus may be spread through the lymph or blood circulations within the body, giving rise to infection to certain organs or even branches of the CNS (Central Nervous System). Viruses are routinely and most commonly disseminated as deliberate agents of warfare through aerosol sprays or through host vectors (insects or animals).
Bacteria are single celled micro organisms, varying in shape and size from globular cells (cocci) of about 0.5 ~tm to rod like cells (bacilli) which may be from 1 ~tm to multiples of 10 times longer. Central to many types of bacteria are special external structures which enhance the capability of bacteria to create disease. Certain forms of bacteria are able to transform themselves into spores, given the proper circumstances, which are far more resistant to bacterial antagonists such as cold, heat, dehydration, chemicals and radiation than the bacterial form. As an inactive form of bacteria, they can germinate wherever and whenever the conditions are favorable. Bacteria have low nutrition requirements, generally, and multiply by cellular division a process which is dependent on temperature, oxygen and growth medium available. Disease creating bacteria tend to favor higher nutrition states and thrive at human body temperatures.
Diseases may be created by bacteria in two ways, either by directly invading the tissue or by producing poisonous substances (toxins). Some bacteria possess both properties. If a bacterium has succeeded in overcoming the body's defenses, it grows in living tissue. As nutrients are taken from the cells, and as harmful byproducts are produced, the cells are either severely damaged or die altogether. Infection which begins locally may then spread to other parts of the human (or animal) body and infect organs or tissue, although the precise manner in which bacteria are spread is still uncertain. In the case of toxic byproducts given off by bacteria, the effects may be very severe. An example of the powerful effects of bacterial toxins (the most powerful poisons known) is provided by the botulinum toxin: a single gram of this substance, produced by Clostridium botulinum is sufficient to kill one million people!
Rickettsia is a unique form of bacteria in that Rickettsia cannot multiply independently, but must interact synergistically with host cells much like viruses, functioning parasitically in a manner which eventually results in host cell death.
Fungi are much larger than bacteria, with complicated cellular structures and life cycles. They were among the first biologicals to be described in scientific literature. As unicellular micro organisms that almost without exception takes on a spore form, fungi may be cultivated similarly to bacteria but frequently form multicellular, thread like structures. The most likely use of fungi as a form of biological weapon is to create crop disease, rather than direct human disease.
Many fungi may produce extremely poisonous and resistant toxins. Grain and crops such as peanuts may be infected with fungi of the Fusarium family, which can create mycotoxins capable of inflicting severe illness when contaminated food products are ingested. Certain mycotoxins of the tricothecenes group (Fusarium fungi) have been linked to the so called `Yellow Rain" instances of CBW agent use in Southeast Asia in the late 70s and early 80s, and in the Gulf War another mycotoxin known as aflatoxin was deliberately cultivated by Iraq and loaded into aerial bombs and Al Abbas missile warheads. Investigation of a possible link between aflatoxin contamination and Gulf War Syndrome continues, and low level aflatoxin exposure is purported to be capable of causing long term health effects involving CA of the liver.
METHODS OF TRANSMITTAL
Most commonly, infection by BW agents is accomplished via respiratory contact, digestion of contaminated foodstuffs, or by transmission through host vectors such as insects (fleas, mosquitoes, etc.); this is due to the fact that human membranous surfaces in the respiratory tract and digestive systems allow rapid and ideal access to the blood circulation, through the chemical exchange process involving ingestion of nutrients and excretion of waste products. Biologicals may also be transmitted readily through urinary tract contamination, the reproductive organs, or the membranes of the eye. Foodstuffs and water supplies are quite easily capable of being contaminated, and of course plant crops or domestic animals may also be used as transmission vectors.
MICRO ORGANISMS COMMONLY TRANSMITTED BY AIR.
Airborne diseases easily spread via aerosols include bacterials such as the Plague, or Black Death (Yersinia pestis), Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), Diptheria (Corynebacterium dipthermiae), Meningitis (Neisseria meningitides), Tularemia, or `Rabbit fever' (Francisella tularensis), Parrot fever (Chlamydia psittaci), rickettsias such as `Q fever' (Coxiella burnetti), virals such as Lassa fever, Marburg fever, Smallpox (Variola), Influenza, Adenovirus, and Coxackie virus, and fungals such as Valley fever (Coccidioides immitis), Nocardiosis (Nocardia asteroides), and Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma capsulatum).
MICRO ORGANISMS TRANSMITTED VIA CONTAMINATION OF FOOD AND WATER.
Although the digestive systems acidic fluids are capable of destroying many infectious agents, micro organisms of the enteropathogens group are capable of defeating the body's ingestive chemical defenses and infect the human GI system. Bacterials in this class include Cholera (Yibrio chlorae), Typhoid fever and related salmonella infections (Salmonella typhi, etc.), Dysentery (Shigelsa dysenteriae), enterotoxin producing E coli, or ETEC (Escherichia coli), Undulant fever, or `Malta fever' (Brucella spp), diarrhoeas (Camphylobacter). Virals favoring this mode of transmission include Yellow fever (epidemic hepatitis), and Poliomyelitis.
MICRO ORGANISMS ROUTINELY TRANSMITTED VIA (INSECT) VECTORS.
Biologicals capable of being transmitted commonly through insect vectors (hosts) include the bacterials Tularemia and Plague, rickettsias Spotted typhus, and the virals Dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, Yellow fever, and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (there are several prominent strains of encephalitic viruses found in various parts of the world).
MICRO ORGANISMS AFFECTING PLANTS
Micro organisms infecting plantlife and food crops may be effectively used as BW agents. Most plan diseases are caused by fungal infections (roughly 90% incidence), which may create spores that are easily spread by wind. After germination and resulting plant destruction occurs, further spores are produced which are again spread via wind as the cyclical process repeats itself.
Bacteria and viruses are also capable of infecting crops. It has been estimated that there are roughly 160 species of bacteria which can create disease in about 150 different varieties of plantlife. There are also reasonably serious viral diseases which most major food crops are susceptible to. Furthermore, insects which live on food crops may also spread these crop destroying biological organisms.
Three examples of serious crop infecting diseases are Potato Leaf Mold (Phytophora infestans), Black Rust (Puccinia graminis), and the bacterium Erwina carotonova.
MICRO ORGANISMS INFECTING ANIMALS (DOMESTIC/NON DOMESTIC)
Infectious diseases afflicting domestic animals may create severe economic hardships, and are therefore considered important BW agents for possible war use. Examples of animal diseases in this category include African Swine Fever (virus), Hoof and Mouth Disease also known as Aphthous Fever (virus), Rinderpest (virus), Vesicular Exanthema (virus), Vesicular Stomatitis (virus), Swine Fever also known as Hog Cholera (virus), Fowl Plague (virus), Newcastle Disease (virus), and many others.
DISPERSAL AND TRANSMISSION MODES OF BW AGENTS
There are two general categories of transmission for biologicals: (deliberate and natural), and four common distribution modes (atmospheric/aerosols, contamination of food, contamination of water supplies, and contact with infected persons, insects or animals). Dispersal of BW agents through deliberate means gives rise to diseases which may then be spread naturally (i.e. from person to person).
ATMOSPHERIC DISTRIBUTION: AEROSOLS
Biologicals may be released in liquid, powder or aerosol form. In the case of traditional weapons of war, biologicals are frequently deployed by aircraft borne sprayer systems and may also be put into aerial bombs, artillery projectiles and guided missile warheads. Iraq was found to have loaded at least two or more Al Abbas /Al Hussein missile warheads with a highly carcinogenic liquid fungal byproduct (aflatoxin), at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, which has caused speculation about a possible tie in to Gulf War Syndrome although there is no hard evidence that any biological weapons were actually deployed against allied troops. The Soviet Union is suspected having engaged in aerial spraying of biological toxins in Southeast Asia and other parts of its vast territories, in connection with the "Yellow Rain " incidents of the late 70s and early 80s.
Typically, projectile deployment uses high explosive to scatter the biological substance either in a direct target hit or an airborne burst and due to the fact that the rate of fall for explosively aerosolized solutions (which may range in size from 1 micron to 10 or more) is very low, airborne drift ranges of many hundreds of miles are unexceptional. This is particularly true if prevailing winds are strong.
The ideal particle size for effective airborne biological aerosols capable of causing respiratory infection is between 1 and 5 ul; this may easily be achieved on a small scale through covert (terrorist) use of pressurised aerosol canisters (to contaminate public places, for example), or on a large scale through sophisticated atmospheric spraying operations involving aircraft.
Environmental factors such as ambient air temperature gradients, landscape patterns and other elements all affect the distribution (and resulting concentration) of biologicals in airborne or aerosolized form. Flat areas lend themselves most to propagation of biologicals resulting from airborne spraying than do hilly, forested, or variegated terrain. On the other hand, ground level release of aerosolized biologicals within protected or sheltered areas (such as congested urban or forested environments) may enable them to remain concentrated much longer. Moist areas, such as swamps, heavily precipitated regions ,or bodies of water, may allow concentrated biologicals to linger longer than they would otherwise.
Structural habitations initially provide some protection against aerosolized biologicals but may slowly penetrate and remain within, in a diluted form, long after the initial aerosol cloud has passed, in the absence of proper ventilatory precautions. All outdoor exposed surfaces, including water, terrain, and material goods may be dangerously contaminated as a result of a large scale dispersal of BW agents.
High levels of UV radiation (sunlight) may degrade or kill certain types of micro organisms in the atmosphere, although dehydration is also harmful and serves to retard propagation. In the case of fungal or bacterial spores, far greater survival times are common; an example is Anthrax, which may persist for tens of years. Indoors, survival of micro organisms is generally far better, especially if the agents have been treated by a process known as `microencapsulation.'
CONTAMINATION OF FOOD PRODUCTS AND CROPS
The process of contamination of food supplies may be effectively undertaken as a means of spreading biological agents. In larger applications, biological agents may be used successfully to contaminate food crops in fields, although use of biologicals on a smaller scale such as in covert attempts by terrorists to contaminate food in a restaurant or public institution may be equally effective and just as deadly. Since extreme heat is an antagonist to most biologicals, food preserving operations employing heat are more difficult to compromise than processing which involves foods that are ready to eat (fruits, vegetables, etc.). Generally, most vulnerable are places where food is served. Among the micro organisms most suited to distribution in this manner are those in the enteropathogenes group organisms capable of defeating the natural digestive defenses of the GI tract. Included in this category are the salmonella, shigella and camphylobacter bacteria. Dairies, farms, poultry operations are, of course, are all as equally susceptible to use of BW agents as food distribution and preparation points.
Due to the intensely toxic nature of some biologicals, relatively small amounts of micro organisms may exact disproportionately deadly effects, although the scope of the actual consequent impact may be difficult to assess due to the uncertain aspects of distribution and consumption considerations. Examples of both deliberate and unintentional contamination of foodstuffs and consumables, and the relative frequency with which such incidents may occur, may be found in every day life, and include accidental salmonella and botulism poisonings, and criminal tampering with food and pharmaceutical products.
CONTAMINATION OF WATER SUPPLIES
Although the process itself was not even vaguely understood by the ancients who used it, contamination of water either to spread disease and death or to force a besieged enemy to capitulate is one of the oldest weapons of warfare in recorded history. The fact that it has been an effective tool for so many centuries bespeaks of its suitability for producing results in times of conflict.
Water, as a favorable medium for dispersal of many biologicals, is a very effective mechanism for exploitation by an enemy either a large, national entity or a small, covert terrorist group. Water supplies for every human or animal population may be easily contaminated, even those that are extremely well regulated for supplying large urban settlements. In most cases, access to central water sources is readily available, and very few American cities maintain even moderate security at reservoirs and pumping plants. Agents may be poured in liquid form directly into the central water reserves, thus making this particular threat by extremist action groups particularly likely. Despite the routine addition of chlorine to water supplies to control or eliminate micro organisms, there are ways in which biological agents may be protected against the effects of chemicals such as chlorine (microencapsulation is one, and addition of neutralizing chemicals to counteract the chlorine is another). In the absence of chlorine, certain biologicals may survive for inordinate lengths of time. Some bacteria, such as strains of E. Coli may last in excess of 250 days, while Anthrax may survive for years in a water medium. A B coxaccie virus has been known to persist in drinking water for slightly under a full year. Other seriously hazardous biologicals have similar survival times in water, during which a mortality causing concentration is present.
A favorite recurring hypothetical scenario of NBC specialists for a successful terrorist attack on a large western city has remained one in which a covert extremist operation contaminates the city's water supply with an especially persistent, virulent biological agent. Due to the fact that rapid comprehension of the precise process at work would be so difficult to ascertain, with resulting action severely hampered by consequential delay, the results of such an attack could very likely result in large scale infliction of death and serious illness.
CONTACT WITH INFECTED PERSONS, ANIMALS AND INSECTS
A final chief disease transmission source is physical contact with other human beings or with infected animals and insects. This contact can be either accidental or intentional, and in addition to being sneezed upon, coughed at, or coming into contact with human bodily fluids, biologicals may be deliberately sprayed on items we are likely to come into contact with in daily life. The human sneeze is a perfect expression of a biological aerosol weapon, for the sneeze succeeds in creating the same sort of fine droplet spray that as that created by an airplane, a pressurised spray can, or an explosively detonated biological projectile.
By virtue of the complicated and uncertain interactions of human beings, the spread of disease in this manner is also uncertain and the actual effective result difficult to predict. However, biological warfare is almost as effective when it brings about a significant reduction of normal human functional capability as when it actually kills or seriously disables. The effects of human contact with infected individuals can result in more subtle, harder to detect effects, but which may be no less useful in either a military or terrorist type action.
Biologicals may also be spread through vectors, or animals and insects infested with a disease causing substance. Examples of this include transmission of plague through fleas, carried by rats, and dispersal of diseases through mosquito, tick and lice bites. Tumalremia, encephalitis, typhus, plague, Lime's Disease, and Malaria are all examples of vector dispersed contagion.
While certain difficulties are inherent in the use of vector carried disease for strategic purposes (lack of control over the transmission rates of the disease, and liability of the instigator as well as the intended target population to the vector born disease he has released, among others), making this form of attack less likely than the first three, the possibility cannot be dismissed.
PROTECTION AND DECONTAMINATION
Although a wide range of protective measures may be taken to guard against the disease and contagion spread through biological means, the critical problem of defense centers first and foremost on detection methodologies. While the west has much recent experience in devising chemical agent detection systems to provide advanced warning of CW attack, it is only within the past few years that serious attention has been directed towards attempting to develop a suitable biological detection science counterpart.
The next and final installment of this three part investigation of biological agents will focus on protection and decontamination techniques applicable for defense against weapons of this type.
PART THREE: BIOLOGICAL PROTECTION AND DECONTAMINATION
THE PROTECTION TRIAD
Advanced early warning, detection, and prophylaxis. In terms of a popular comparative analogue, biological weapons have popularly been regarded as the hypothetical poor man's nuclear bomb, out of recognition of their devastating potential for creating large number of casualties at little cost and effort. Perhaps it would be even more appropriate to compare them to the hypothetical neutron bomb, due to the latter's supposed ability to destroy biological life without substantially damaging non organic structures.
While technical expertise in detection of and defense against chemical agents has progressed substantially over the past 85 years, biological agent protection technology is still in its relative infancy. Loathe as the DoD (Department of Defense) might be to admit NBC preparedness deficiencies on the part of the US military forces just prior to and during the 1991 Gulf War, today's American NBC defense establishment will frankly admit that biologicals are still the wild card in projected rogue CBW threat scenarios which it is estimated the world currently faces.
The key strategy for biological agent protection and survival is ideally 1) timely detection, 2) identification of the agent(s), 3) consequent warning, 4) adequate preventive measures and treatment, and 5) decontamination capability. With regard to the former, international development effort to produce a reliable, portable, rugged and simple to operate instrument with which to predict minute traces of biologicals constitutes a still largely unrealized goal. The problem of engineering a system which will meet all of the tactical criteria for practical application is a technical and scientific challenge of monumental and costly proportions, for which state of the art advances in research methodologies have yet to produce a reliable, cost effective break through.
Lacking the vital element of an adequate means of directly detecting suspected biological agents, no advanced early warning capability is readily at hand in the face of such threats. Instead, traditional techniques of intelligence gathering and intelligent prediction aspects of warfare which are inherently prone to error and spurious assumption must be relied upon today as they have in the past. One of the principal problems with biologicals, of course, is that often extremely small quantities of these exceptionally toxic substances are sufficient to produce the intended effects with almost no immediately discernible indication. After intelligence analysis and information reduction, the next indirect detection mechanism indicating possible bio attack could possibly be an unusual incidence of reported specific disease cases at health facilities; by the time symptoms become apparent, it is likely that large numbers of people have already been exposed to the agent being used, although even at this advanced stage of attack general issuance of a biological threat warning and implementation of isolation/containment protocols might still be useful to help limit casualties.
When warning has been given that a bio threat is imminent or already unleashed, individual and collective protection measures are immediately resorted to, just as they would be in a chemical agent situation, for most protective items such as respirators, filters and garments will protect equally against both types of agents. Unfortunately, whereas quick acting chemical agents tend to disperse somewhat quickly (with limited long term or residual effects) and biological agents are usually far slower in achieving their fullest, most devastating potential, by their very nature biologicals are frequently capable of remaining dangerously threatening to organic life over a substantially protracted period of time (in some cases, even years or decades). The wearing of protective gear for relatively short the periods of time that chemical agents remain threatening is usually possible, but sustained wearing of protection ensembles against biologicals is both impractical and inordinately difficult, given the prolonged nature of their functional mechanisms.
DETECTION IN THE AIR, WATER, AND FOOD
If a BW agent has been air released, the concentration of organisms will be relatively low fairly soon after their deployment, compounding their detection against normal background biological contaminants. Systems for sampling suspected air contaminants are nominally available and have been in use for decades in civilian commercial applications, however they are complex, require skilled application, and demand substantial training in order to be used most effectively. Further, problems with sensitivity and sample strength in unusual environments pose special challenges to even the best existing industrial techniques for detecting biocontagion. These systems are consequently best left to use by organisations trained in their use and logistically suited to support the costly nature of their deployment. In the USA, recent military development has focused on laser radar technology as a means of air release detection and although the technique shows promise, these systems are still experimental and quite expensive to develop.
Fortunately, detection of biocontamination in food or water has been carried out for many years and there are specific laboratory processes developed especially for these applications. Again, these techniques, though standardized and proven in civilian use, are the responsibility of state and Federal health care organisations which have been set up for their routine employment in times of peace. Due to the time consuming processes involved in testing food and water for contamination, the best protective measure in the event of a bio threat is to have substantial stocks of previously stored food and water on hand. Both food and water contamination processes are more easily detected and determined than an air released bio threat agent; they are also somewhat slower taking effect than air released contamination.
Directly observable signs of a possible bio threat attack might include observation of unusual clouds of material in the air; reports of unauthorized entry or access to communal stores of food, water supplies, or ventilation systems, etc.; discovery of unusual containers or vials filled with suspicious residue near central air, food and water systems; or the unexplained discovery of dead animals and/or demonstration of abnormal behavior by animals.
Unfortunately, identification of specific bio agents, although easier to accomplish than simple detection, is nevertheless a far more complex process than untrained lay individuals may reliably undertake.
PROTECTION, INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE
As has been noted in the first two parts of this series, air released bio agents pose a special threat, not simply because they are harder to detect but because aerosolized bio organisms frequently infect most readily when suitable concentrations are directly introduced into the respiratory tract. Fortunately, the filters used in standard military and civilian NBC respirators effectively screen out air borne bacteria and viruses as well as other non biological agents. However, with biologicals, certain considerations such as proper mask sizing and face fit assume an importance of several higher orders of magnitude in comparison with similar use against chemical agents; beards, especially, pose critical risks in achieving a face seal adequate in bio threat circumstances. A protective mask and filter, however, may not be of substantial value unless some sort of warning has been given; the same is true for bioprotective suits, although both items immediately become mandatory when it is necessary to enter into a known contaminated environment. Baring possession of adequate personal protection against air borne (aerosolized) bio agents, even such simple measures as use of a towel or handkerchief to cover the nose and mouth in the presence of a suspected biological agent are somewhat effective (about as effective as use of a typical hospital type surgical face mask).
Collective protective shelters suitable for use against biological threats are usually constructed with an external air supply duct that first passes air past aerosol filters before flowing through activated charcoal. Such aerosol filters are quite effective in screening out both bacteria and viruses and are essentially scaled up versions of the individual respirator filter used with masks (which contain both a `mechanical' particulate filter element and an activated charcoal element that has been bonded with certain metallic ions).
In constructing such a shelter, not just the air supply must be dually filtered, but access to the shelter must include a decontamination area where clothing and garments as well as all exposed parts of the body may be disinfected, prior to entry. This process poses special problems which most protective shelter designs such as subterranean blast refuges (the conventional "bomb shelter") do not normally provide for, but it is a serious concern to bear in mind when planning for or constructing a true omni environmental `safe area' for personal or collective protection against the full range of nuclear, chemical and/or biological threats.
Another serious thought to bear in mind, with regard to maintenance of a protected bio safe area, is the possibility of indirect contamination by individuals who have already been exposed to a bio threat agent. Provision for isolation and treatment of such individuals, once the safe area has been thus compromised, are mandatory if others are not to be contaminated, as well.
SIMPLE PROTECTIVE MEASURES
In the event of a suspected aerosol bio attack, assuming that standard individual protection items are not accessible, common sense demands that whatever filter material is nearest at hand be used to cover the respiratory passages and that all exposed bodily surfaces be covered in the best manner possible. Raincoats and other garments intended to provide protection against rain are useful in that they frequently have attached hoods and use proofed materials. These items confer a modest and somewhat limited protection, but again, some protection is infinitely better than none, depending upon the suspected agent in use. All bodily mucous membranes ought to be shielded (nose, mouth, eyes, etc.) and care should be taken to see that the skin, which has a certain inherent defensive resistance against infection, is not breached by cuts, wounds and/or other injuries to it; once the skin has been traumatically penetrated, the chances of infection increase dramatically especially in the presence of virulent biological war agents. The human immune system has a certain limited ability to protect against specific types of infection, but with regard to exotic viral agents and other biological materials which are intentionally used as war agents (because of their extraordinarily lethal nature), the outcome is invariably poor.
Lacking specific disinfecting materials and suitable decontamination facilities, even such simple acts as washing the exposed areas of skin with soap and water assume great importance in cases of suspected exposure to bio agents.
POST BIO-AGENT ATTACK MEDICAL TREATMENT
Most frequently, the results of bio agent attack may commonly be seen as epidemic type contagion of individuals; the circumstances of wartime may facilitate this process further through the breakdown of normal sanitation and individual hygiene, so minimal normal standards of good hygiene become critically important in any situation involving use of biological war agents.
Proper and prompt medical treatment is ideal, though not likely to be immediately available in the typical scenario wherein bio agents have been released as a result of a covert regional terrorist action. Once casualties have been identified, isolation techniques are extremely useful in preventing further spread of infection through personal contact until proper medical treatment is available. Against, direct or indirect contact with an infected individual either through air borne transmittal or through proximity with bodily wastes, is to be avoided at all costs and protective personal equipment must be used.
Assuming that appropriate medical care is not at hand (such as in a rural home environment), a good reference library of medical information is highly recommended. Medical references such as The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide or any one of a number of general medical emergency manuals similar to it are invaluable to have on hand. Of course, it helps to have read through them beforehand and be at least mildly acquainted with their content to some degree before an actual bio threat has materialized. The old adage knowledge is a weapon could justifiably be restated knowledge is protection.
Home medical care, unless undertaken by a somewhat unusually astute individual, usually leaves much to be desired in complex cases of biologically induced illness. If at all possible, appropriate legitimate medical care ought to be sought as soon as circumstances and safety concerns allow, for the sooner treatment is sought, the greater the chances of recovery.
INOCULATIONS AND VACCINATIONS
Another protective measure against biological threat to consider is immunization. While certain types of commonly encountered infectious and epidemic diseases (such as diphtheria, chicken pox, yellow fever, cholera, meningitis, tetanus, and encephalitis, hepatitis, influenzas, etc.) may be prevented with up to date inoculations, US military experience during the 1991 Gulf War has shown that taking `cocktails' of a number of prophylactic vaccines in close succession may in fact create unforeseen and possibly quite serious consequences (through synergistic interactions producing unintended `side effects'). This theory is currently under investigation as a possible contributing factor in what we know as `Gulf War Syndrome.' Scrupulously maintaining currency of a wide range of immunizations against epidemic diseases is not, however, an easy undertaking. While a far broader range of prophylactic immunizations against exotic biological agents exists in the US, many of them are not readily available to the public without proper medical authorization at this time. It is possible to be immunized against anthrax and some of the more deadly diseases that are considered to have exceptional potential as effective biological war agents, however prophylactic vaccines for use against bubonic plague need to be administered over a period of several months prior to exposure to be effective. Further, vaccines for smallpox prevention that are now in stock are based upon 40 year old strains that may have lost effectiveness against new strains of the disease; additionally, it is estimated that there only enough stocks of the old smallpox vaccine on hand to inoculate 12 to 15 million individuals. For more precise information on immunizations it is recommended that appropriate medical authority be queried for specific answers, such as the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
TREATMENT OF VIRAL VS. BACTERIOLOGICAL & FUNGAL AGENTS.
One of the most important goals of effective medical response to a suspected biological threat is identification of the specific agent in use. Agents that are bacteriological in origin and action may be effectively treated, in many cases, with antibiotics. Agents that are viral, on the other hand, are impervious to antibiotics and are far harder to treat. Further, even some bacterials are extremely resistant to standard antibiotics and with virals there is sometimes the additional risk of mutation to deal with. Again, the treatment for biological agents is of such potential complexity that `home care' is virtually entirely inadequate to deal with the problem. Proper medical treatment and prompt attention by a physician may make the difference between life and death in a vast majority of cases, depending upon the concentration of exposure, severity of symptoms, and such considerations as advanced age, general health, level of physical fitness, nutrition, etc. In final consideration, prompt medical attention associated with maintenance of high standards of sanitation and personal hygiene, in turn combined with adequate personal protection and shelter, are the keys to immediate survival in the event of a suspected attack with biological agents.
Much of this protective materiel may be obtained from local commercial health and safety businesses. Items such as commercial grade HazMat suits, protective gloves, boots and hoods, as well as respirators, are routinely available on special order or directly off the retail shelf. An important item to keep on hand is a supply of standard commercial grade duct tape for sealing glove and boot junctures to protective suits used for protection against biologicals.
BIOLOGICAL DECONTAMINATION TECHNIQUES
It is important to consider three signal definitions here. The term sterilization refers specifically to the absolute destruction of all reproductive biological life. Disinfection defines a state in which all non desirable microorganisms have been destroyed to the extent that no risk of infection remains. Decontamination is used in reference to the removal (but not necessarily the destruction) of non desirable microorganisms sufficient to preventing their posing an infectious risk.
Since sterilization is all but impossible anywhere except in special facilities such as hospitals and laboratories, disinfection and decontamination are the only two possible means of removing the risk of further contagion from the immediate personal or collective environment.
There are three principal methods whereby objects and individuals may be 'decontaminated.' These are 1) mechanical, 2) chemical, and 3) physical. Washing, scrubbing and conventional flushing with water are considered `mechanical' techniques in that they mechanically remove the bacteriological contaminants without rendering them harmless. Disinfecting with chemicals is perhaps the best method to use and may take the form of a liquid, a gas, or an aerosol. The effectiveness of the technique varies directly with the strength of the concentration of disinfectant being used but is also affected by environmental factors such as temperature and the acid base nature of the interaction. Substances producing spores, which are far more impervious to disinfectants than other biologicals, must be treated to higher concentrations for longer periods of time to achieve the desired effect.
Finally, physical methods that are effective may include exposure to heat and radiation, although effectiveness varies with the humidity of the process. Moist heat (such as that used in hospital autoclaves) kills organisms far more quickly than dry heat. Even boiling water may be effective in certain instances, although all of these techniques usually require far more effort than use of specific disinfectants.
Depending on the circumstances, a combination of these techniques may be needed to achieve the desired level of decontamination. It is important to bear in mind that the material in question must be considered before a determination is made of the most effective technique for decontamination. Fabrics, for instance, may be boiled in hot water for 15 minutes or subjected to 200 degree (F) water mixed with detergent. Items such as vehicles ought to be physically scrubbed with disinfectant treated water to remove organisms and prevent further spread of contaminants.
Decontamination of landscape areas is difficult and expensive to undertake, although the area must be sprayed to keep the formation of dust down (danger of inhaled biologicals in the dust) if it is to be used regularly. A mixture of chloride of lye or lime may be used to physically decontaminate the ground, if need be.
Interior living spaces may be best decontaminated with aerosolized commercial disinfectants, all of which are readily available and routinely used in such places as hospitals. Airing and proper ventilation of treated living areas must be undertaken immediately after such treatment, however.
The added effect of exposure to sunlight speeds decontamination of bacteriologicals; interior spaces, or spaces in which there is no direct sunlight (ultraviolet radiation), require substantially more decontamination in order to achieve the same effect.
Commercial disinfectants recommended for general decontamination use include phenol, isopropyl alcohol, dilute ammonia and chlorine solutions, formaldehydes and glutaraldehydes (inhalation of the fumes of which are hazardous), and chlorohexidine. Substantial quantities must be obtained and stored well in advance of their actual need for use in either small or large scale decontamination. A very convenient apparatus for use in small to medium applications is the standard US Army portable decontamination apparatus 1'/2 Quart ABC Ml 1 (NSN 4230 00 720 1618). These handy fire extinguisher sized portable sprayers are available as surplus materiel quite inexpensively. The Standard US Army DS2 solution (Decontaminating Solution No.2) used with them may also be acquired as military surplus. It is effective against all known toxic chemical agents and biological materials (except spores) if sufficient contact time is allowed (for example, 30 minutes is sufficient for decontaminating VX war agent, which is one of the deadliest nerve agents in the chemical arsenal). DS2 is supplied in one and a third quart cans (NSN 6850 00 753 4827) and 5 gallon pails (NSN 6850 00 753 4870). DS2 is very effective for biological agent decontamination.
As Philip Congdon, respected former Royal Air Force NBC consultant who helped Saudi Arabia structure its chemical and biological defenses during the 1991 Gulf War, puts it: "In the absence of total confidence in a biological and chemical warfare detection and alarm system, the key to survival will always be effective, individual protective equipment." This is as true for biological protection as it is for the more familiar science of chemical defense. The maintenance of adequate basic equipment and supplies for protection against the biological threat is the key to survival, predicated as it must be on the assumption of proper knowledge and training in the use and application of such items. Again, as stated on other occasions, one of the best things an individual can do to prepare against the time when biological agents are used, either as an act of war or as the result of a regional terrorist action, is take the time to become as knowledgeable as possible about the nature of the threat and how to defense successfully against it. Books and other references then may be seen as equally as important for survival as possession of respirators and suitable decontamination systems.
One of the most interesting I have seen, specifically addressing the possibility of a future biological threat in the United States, is by a former microbiologist named Larry Wayne Harris, who has written a privately produced 100 page booklet 'Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America'. Availability and/or distribution of the book is uncertain but it is excellent reference material for preparing for and defending against the possibility of biological attack. This booklet has been seen at various militaria & gun shows and sells for $5/copy... a bargain considering the value of the material, which is covered in substantial detail.
Another excellent reference which is difficult to get but extremely valuable general information on all aspects of biological defense is the latest (number 17) in the Swedish National Defense Establishment series of NBC defense informational works entitled 'FOA: A Briefing Book on Biological Weapons,' that is an updated version (of a previous 1986 edition). One final book which may be of substantial use is US Army Field Manual FM 3 5 (NBC Decontamination), available as surplus materiel through most Army/Navy stores.
[Let us all hope that terrorists never succeed in deliberately unleashing the biological threat in the United States, for if they do, no matter how well prepared or protected we are, the horrific results of any concerted biological attack will make the events of 9/11/2001 seem like a church carnival by comparison. However, if a bio attack should ever come to pass, awareness of the information contained in this article might well help save your life or those of your friends and family. As a final rejoinder, it should be recalled that in 1918 the world experienced one of the worst outbreaks of influenza ever known. Experts in biological defense speculate that another major outbreak, perhaps of the avian transmitted variety, may be just around the corner. If this possibility becomes reality, it will not be a terrorist who unleashes the threat but our own Mother Nature…]