RSS Feed Reader The Wednesday Report Current Issues of The Wednesday Report are Syndicated Via RSS Feed

Canada's Aerospace and Defence WeeklyClick here for TWR History

Defence History Reference Section
Do a keyword search.

Chem/Bio Weapons of Mass Destruction 

Threat Scenario, Detection, Super Diseases, BZ Gas, Anthrax, Botulism, Ebola, Glanders, Hantavirus, Pneumonic Plague, Ricin, Small Pox, TularemiaTyphoid, VX Gas, Tabun-Sarin-Soman ~ Chem/Bio/Nuclear Terrorism

Note: The Canadian federal government's  Office of Emergency Preparedness, Planning and Training is responsible for Health Canada's Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response's (CEPR ) overall strategic and management planning. Responsibilities of the CEPR include:

  • Managing the National Emergency Stockpile System (NESS), a $330 million system that provides emergency medical supplies quickly to provinces and territories when requested.
  • Working with Canadian provinces and local public health authorities to ensure that front-line health workers have the tools to deal with, identify and diagnose an event requiring emergency medical supplies.

Biological Agents


The six microorganisms posing the greatest public health threat: Variola major (smallpox), Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Yersinia pestis (plague), botulinum toxin (botulism), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), and filovirus/arenavirus (hemorrhagic fevers).

Microorganisms may be released silently and without immediate effects. The spread of disease cannot be controlled until there is awareness of the signs of infection and identification of the agent. 

If an organism is easily spread from person to person, as in the case of smallpox, the number of casualties could run into the tens of thousands. 

The probability that such an attack will take place in Canada has been deemed to be low by the Canadian government. 

The probability of such an attack in the United States is significantly higher.

Any such attack in North America would have calamatous consequences. For example, projections based on a CDC model 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.

Without preparation for bioterrorist activities at all levels of government, emergency services will be uncoordinated and inefficient, communication will be fragmented, and panic among the public will be very probable.

One of the more important aspects of the response to terrorist acts involving deadly microorganisms is the speed with which the response plan goes into effect. Delay results in greater numbers of infected people.

  • Biological agents can be dispersed by an aerosol spray which must be inhaled. 
  • These agents can also be used to contaminate food, water and other products. Attention to basic food hygiene when traveling abroad is very important.
  • Some chemical agents may be volatile--evaporating rapidly to form clouds of agent. Others may be persistent.
  • These agents may act directly on the skin, lungs, eyes, respiratory tract or be absorbed through your skin and lungs causing injury.
  • Choking and nerve agents damage the soft tissue in these organs.
  • When properly used, appropriate masks are effective protection to prevent the inhalation of either biological or chemical agents; however this assumes an adequate warning. Gas masks alone do not protect against agents that act through skin absorption. Protective equipment for personal use is available from commercial vendors in the industrial and occupational health industries.
  • There is an incubation period after exposure to biological agents. 
  • It is essential that a person seek appropriate care for illnesses acquired while traveling abroad to assure prompt diagnosis and treatment.

The range of  biological agents of war or bio-terrorism changes over time. Technology allows for some pathogens, which in their natural state pose only minimal dangers, to be genetically engineered into more threatening forms having fewer if any cure at all. Their availability in nature also changes and science continues to discover new pathogens. 

The United States Center for Disease Control compiled a widely adopted list of the most dangerous biological agents. They are segregated into three categories, depending on a variety of factors.

  • Category A agents are given highest priority regarding the need for public health preparedness. They are agents that pose a threat to national security due to ease of dissemination and transmission from person to person, result in high mortality rates, have the potential for a major impact on public health, may cause public panic and social disruption, and require special action for public health preparedness. Category A includes anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers.
  • Category B agents are considered second highest priority. They pose a risk to national security because they are moderately easy to disseminate and result in moderate mortality rates. Category B includes brucellosis, epsilon toxin of clostridium perfringens, food safety threats (salmonella, escherichia coli, shigella), glanders, melioidosis, psittacosis, Q- fever, ricin toxin, staphylococcal enterotoxin B, typhus fever, viral encephalitis, and water safety threats (vibrio cholerae, crytosporidium parvum).
  • Category C agents are given third highest priority. They are a threat to national security due to their availability, ease of production and dissemination, potential for high mortality rates, and impact on public health. This category includes agents that are emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination such as the nipah virus and hantavirus.


Bio-Terrorism Topic Covered in Current Publications:


Category A Agents


Bacillus anthracis

1-7 days Sore throat, mild fever, muscle aches Inhalation, contact with or consumption of contaminated meat or animal product Early detection and antibiotic treatment. Vaccine not available to public.

Clostridium botulism toxin

6 hours to 2 weeks Double vision, difficulty swallowing, paralysis of breathing muscles Inhalation, ingestion of contaminated food Antitoxin available

Yersinia pestis

2-6 days Swollen lymph gland, fever, headache Inhalation, bite from infected flea Antibiotics within 24 hours of first symptoms

Variola major

12-14 days Fever, full-body rash which develops into fluid-filled bumps Inhalation, contact with an infected person Supportive medical treatment. Vaccine.

Francisella tularensis

3-5 days Sudden fever, headache, chills, pneumonia Inhalation, bite from infected insects, ingestion of contaminated food or water Early detection and antibiotics
Viral hemorrhagic fevers

Filoviruses and Arenaviruses

2-21 days Fever, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, loss of strength, exhaustion Contact with fluids or a bite from an infected animal or insect Supportive therapy and antibiotics

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