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Weapons of Mass Destruction (Chem/Bio)

Threat Scenario, Detection, Super Diseases, BZ Gas, Anthrax, Botulism, Ebola, Glanders, Hantavirus, Pneumonic Plague, Small Pox, TularemiaTyphoid, VX Gas, Tabun-Sarin-Soman

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Projections using Canadian data predicts, that, under certain conditions, an anthrax attack on 100,000 Canadians would result in 50,000 anthrax cases, 32,875 deaths, 332,500 hospitalization days, and a cost of $ 6.5 billion. (additional reading)

In Canada, there was an anthrax hoax letter incident on January 30, 2001 at the Citizenship and Immigration Office. The letter was likely sent by miltant islamists in protest over the detention of Mahjoub, who ran Bin Laden's farm in Sudan. A Canadian defence research team undertook to assess the risk. The report issued in September 2001.

Anthrax has become the terrorist "biological weapon of choice" during the 20th Century and most likely will continue to hold this position into the 21st Century.  

Confirmed cases of exposure to anthrax in the United States (bio-terrorist attacks of 2001) have caused an increase in anxiety over the possibility of attacks in North America using anthrax. The method of delivery of anthrax in 2001 was by letter or package. While the risk of such attacks is limited, it cannot be excluded.

In its most destructive form - an aerosol sprayed into the air - it is invisible and odourless.  Anthrax spores can only be seen through a microscope that magnifies 50 to 100 times.  It can be stored in bulk as a powder, liquid or paste.

One of the biological agents is the spore-forming bacterium that causes Anthrax. It should be noted, however, that effective dispersal of the Anthrax bacteria is difficult.

  • Anthrax is treatable if that treatment is initiated promptly after exposure. The post-exposure treatment consists of certain antibiotics administered in combination with the vaccine.
  • An anthrax vaccine that confers protective immunity does exist, but is not readily available to private parties. Efficacy and safety of use of this vaccine for persons under 18 or over 65 and pregnant women have not been determined.

The agent is easy to create and stores almost indefinitely under the right environmental conditions.It can also be easily delivered to a target in a dust form that creates casualties when it is inhaled. Additionally it remains dangerous for long periods of time on the ground, giving it a persistent effect.

Also known as splenic fever, malignant pustule, or wool sorters' disease, anthrax is an acute, infectious disease of animals as well as human beings. The disease is caused by Bacillus anthraces, an organism that forms highly resistant spores that can remain dangerous for decades in contaminated soil or other materials.

And anthrax is very persistent; during WWII, the British experimented with anthrax spores as a possible weapon. Their work was conducted on an island called Gruinard off the northwest coast of Scotland. The island is still quarantined today, decades after the work was discontinued.

There are several forms of the disease caused by anthrax. Per acute is the most intense form followed by sub acute (or internal anthrax), and chronic or localized (external) anthrax. In the acute forms symptoms include excitement and a rise in body temperature followed by depression, spasms, respiratory or cardiac distress, trembling, staggering, convulsions, and death. Bloody discharges sometimes come from the natural body openings, and edematous swellings may appear in various locations on the body.

The per acute and acute forms generally end with death occurring within a day or two. Sub acute forms of anthrax either lead to death in three to five days (or sometimes longer) or to complete recovery after several days, depending on the overall health of the victim and the exposure to the agent.

Strict quarantine measures, disposal of the dead by burning or burial in carefully marked graves that will not contaminate drinking water in the future are a necessity if there is an attack.  Since flies can carry this disease, care must be taken to avoid letting flies multiply.  Strict sanitation, screening over doors and window, and other protective measures are in order.

Natural outbreaks of Anthrax in humans usually occurs as a coetaneous, pulmonary, or intestinal infection. Of these the localized infection of the skin in the form of a carbuncle is the most common; this results from handling infected material. Lesions are usually seen on the hands, arms, or neck; this resembles a small pimple that develops rapidly into a large vesicle with black necrotic centre (known as a "malignant pustule"). Large numbers of lesions can lead to fatal blood poisoning.

The most likely form to be employed for biological terrorism would be pulmonary anthrax, also known as "wool sorters' disease," which affects the lungs and pleura. This results from inhaling anthrax spores which often occur naturally in areas where hair and wool are processed. Because anthrax spores are apt to be delivered in a "dust" or aerosol form on the battlefield, this form of the disease is also the most likely to be encountered during the use of anthrax as a biological agent. This form of anthrax usually runs a rapid course and ends in death.

The intestinal form of anthrax often occurs after eating contaminated meat. It is characterized by acute inflammation of the intestinal tract, vomiting, and severe diarrhoea.

Anthrax can be transmitted to humans who travel through spore-contaminated brush or come into contact with objects that are contaminated. And because of the hardiness of the spores, areas can remain contaminated for very long periods of time. For this reason great caution must be exercised in venturing into areas that have been contaminated with this biological agent.

Prompt diagnosis and early treatment are necessary if a victim is to survive an Anthrax attack.

The hazard of infection from a contaminated environment can be reduced by sterilization of contaminated material before use, wearing protective clothing, use of a gas mask or other respirator, and maintenance of good sanitary facilities to avoid further spreading of the disease. Great care must be exercised in moving the bodies and carcasses of men and beasts that have been killed by the disease.

Anthrax generally has a 1 to 7 day incubation period before a victim exposed to the spores becomes ill. Spores delivered in a terrorist incident would probably be in a dry, powdered form looking something like dried cocoa.

Symptoms include tightness of the chest and the symptoms of a cold. Often victims will appear to recover (this is known as the "Anthrax eclipse"); this comes to an end around day four of the il1ness when victims will die from anthrax pneumonia.

Treatment following exposure to spores requires a massive dose of antibiotics during the first 24 hours in order to prevent a lethal build-up of toxins.

Effective decontamination of materials such as tools, or of floors and other surfaces, can be carried out with a mixture of a solution comprised of 10 percent formalin and 5 percent lye. As noted earlier, these chemicals are not meant for direct contact with human flesh and may produce dangerous fumes. Take all necessary precautions such as protective gloves, breathing masks, etc.



Q & A for Soldiers and Civilians

  • Q: Would I know if I breathed anthrax?

  • A: No.

  • Q: If anthrax is on the ground, can I get it from kicking up dust?

  • A: Probably not.  The spores tend to clump together, so even if inhaled, they do not get deep into the lungs.

  • Q: How much anthrax does it take to make someone sick?

  • A: Roughly, 10,000 spores.

  • Q: What happens when a person breathes them?

  • A: The spores become lodged in the lungs.  There, they are picked up by the immune-system cells called macrophages, which carry them to the lymph nodes.  On the way, the spores mature into bacteria.

  • Q: How do they make people sick?

  • A: The bacteria multiply in the lymph nodes and then enter the bloodstream.  They produce a poison that causes the immune system to produce lethal doses of chemicals that are ordinarily useful to the body.

  • Q: What are the systems?

  • A: At first, they seem like a cold or flu: fever, ache and non-productive cough.  Plummeting blood pressure, swelling, haemorrhaging and other catastrophic symptoms soon follow.

  • Q: How quickly does it kill?

  • A: Typically within three days of the start of symptoms.

  • Q: How soon do the symptoms start once people breathe the spores?

  • A: Usually around 10 days, but up to six weeks …


Threat Scenario, Detection, Super Diseases, BZ Gas, Anthrax, Ebola, Glanders, Hantavirus, Pneumonic Plague, Small Pox, Typhoid, VX Gas