Biological and chemical agents are terrorist weapons that threaten the U.S. and many other countries. That threat is described, along with the effects of chemical and biological weapons. International terrorism, arms control, and defense measures are topics included in this book as well.
You turn on the television and a news story is just breaking. Thousands of people in Chicago are being admitted to hospitals with symptoms that resemble those of pneumonia. Most patients have high fevers and can scarcely breathe. In nearly all the cases, patients attended a major concert at Soldiers Field, but there appears to be no apparent cause for the epidemic. Some speculate the crowd of 60,000 was exposed to some type of "killer germs" released from aircraft while the concert was in progress.
A much more detailed fictional event was presented by Thomas Inglesby, a physician at John Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies. His imaginary tale begins on a November evening. The setting is a professional football stadium in the Northeastern United States. A game is being played "before an audience of 74,000. The evening sky is overcast, the temperature mild, a breeze blows from west to east.
During the first quarter of the game, an unmarked truck drives along an elevated highway a mile upwind of the stadium. As it passes the stadium, the truck releases an aerosol [spray] of powdered anthrax over 30 seconds, creating an invisible, odorless anthrax cloud more than a third of a mile in breadth. The wind blows the cloud across the stadium parking lots, into and around the stadium, and onward for miles over the neighboring business and residential districts. After the anthrax release, the truck continues driving and is more than 100 miles away from the city by the time the game is finished. The anthrax release is detected by no one.
Approximately 16,000 of the 74,000 fans are infected by the anthrax cloud; another 4,000 in the business and residential districts downwind of the stadium also are infected. After the game, the fans disperse to their homes in the greater Northeast metropolitan area; some return to homes in neighboring states.... The driver of the truck and his associates leave the country by plane that night. They will be [far] away by the time the first symptoms of anthrax appear 2 days later."
Before this story ends, anthrax has sickened thousands of those originally infected and 4,000 have died within ten days of the attack; the metropolitan area is in panic; city workers from firefighters to bus and subway operators are absent due to illness or death; hospitals are crowded, and antibiotics to treat anthrax are in short supply.
Anthrax is a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which forms a long-lived spore (sometimes surviving indefinitely) that can kill if inhaled unless antibiotics are administered immediately. There are several forms of anthrax, but the form that is inhaled (inhalation anthrax) is extremely deadly--"less than a thimbleful dispersed in the air could potentially kill hundreds of people," according to a Mayo Clinic microbiologist. The anthrax, however, has to be specially dried and milled before it can be spread about effectively in an aerosol container, or sprayer.
Anthrax contamination is a common feature in many other likely acts of terrorism--that is, violence or the threat of violence against unarmed civilians or military troops to intimidate them. Terrorists use these acts or threats in attempts to accomplish their own political, religious, or other goals. "A terrorist who managed to break a flask of anthrax spores onto a subway track [for example] could quickly contaminate a large and conveniently confined volume of air...several thousand people could breathe in an infectious dose--far more than the number likely to be hurt or killed by a conventional bomb."