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Chem/Bio Weapons

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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Although deadly, natural Ebola is rapidly killed by sunlight. This makes it less than ideal for biological warfare. However the variant of Ebola called the Marburg virus was developed by the Soviets and it may be that this strain is more hardy. Too, work has been done by the Soviets in transferring parts of the Ebola virus into the composition of Smallpox and other diseases. If such experiments succeed, then such a strain might be suitable for terrorism.

The Ebola virus burst from obscurity late this century with spectacular outbreaks of severe, hemorrhagic fever. The first outbreak in Zaire resulted in 318 cases with a fatality rate of 90 percent; later it caused 150 deaths out of 250 cases in Sudan. Smaller outbreaks have continued in Africa with scientists unsure what the animal vector of the disease is - or even if there is one.

Epidemics appear to have resulted from person-to-person transmission as well as through laboratory infections, making this a potentially very contagious and deadly disease that is undoubtedly of great interest to those searching for new biological weapons. The incubation period for the needle-transmitted Ebola virus (spread by medical authorities who improperly sterilized equipment used for vaccinations) appears to be 5 to 7 days; person-to-person transmission takes from 6 to 12 days.

The virus spreads through the blood and then is replicated in many of the body's organs including the liver, lymphatic organs, kidneys, ovaries, and testes. As the disease progresses, it manifests itself in the form of bleeding, especially in the mucosa, abdomen, pericardium, and vagina. The capillary leakage leads to loss of blood volume, bleeding from various points in the body, shock, and acute respiratory disorder for those cases that will prove fatal. These patients eventually die of intractable shock. The illness is often accompanied by sustained high fevers with patients often becoming delirious and combative.

Health officials have argued that the Ebola virus is ill-suited to sustaining an epidemic since it kills so rapidly that victims don't have much chance to infect others. Also, the virus is not all that easy to pass along since it isn't airborne and can't be transmitted with a sneeze or cough. Although not everything is known about how the disease is spread, it appears to be similar to AIDS in that direct contact with a victim's blood or other body fluids appears to be necessary to contract the virus.

Modification of the virus through genetic engineering, or the creation of dispersal methods that could infect people through aerosol methods might also be practical.  And the virus itself could conceivably mutate into an airborne disease. In short, given the lethality of Ebola, there is a great incentive to develop methods that would transform this into a viable weapon.

Past recommendations for isolation of the patient in a plastic isolator have given way to the more moderate recommendation of strict barrier isolation with body fluid precautions. This presents no excess risk to the hospital personnel and allows substantially better patient care.

Currently the main concern in the prevention and control of the disease is to interrupt any person-to-person contacts between those suffering from the disease and those who are free of it. This may be very difficult, especially during a large outbreak of the disease when hospitals are over-taxed and sick or dying patients are on the streets. The main consideration of those who are well is to avoid contact with blood or other body fluids from those who are ill; use of a protective mask and even clothing might also be necessary if the virus appears to be airborne.

Until the vector creatures that carry this disease have been determined, it would also be wise to avoid contact with all mammals since these are the most likely vectors of the disease (though it is always possible that the disease is carried by insects or other means).

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