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Written by Salim Damerdji

Dr. Kortepeter is a preventive medicine officer in the Operational Medicine Division at the U.S. Army
Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where he teaches the medical management of
biological weapons casualties.
Dr. Parker is Commander, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at
Fort Detrick, MD. USAMRIID conducts research to develop vaccines, medications, and diagnostics to
protect U.S. service members from biological warfare threats and endemic infectious diseases.

Bio Weapons suck at killing people: Biological weapons are far less deadly than nuclear
weapons because they don’t kill nearly as many people. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, just
two nuclear bombs, killed hundreds of thousands of people, while 100 incidents of
biological weapons killed only 10.
The National Defense University recently compiled a study of more than 100 confirmed
incidents of illicit use of biological agents during this century (W.S. Carus, pers. comm. [4]). Of the
100 incidents, 29 involved agent acquisition, and of the 29, 19 involved the actual nongovernmental use of an agent, and
most were used for biocrimes, rather than for bioterrorism. In the context of this study, the
distinguishing feature of bioterrorism is that it involves the use of "violence on behalf of a political, religious, ecologic, or other
ideologic cause without reference to the moral or political justice of the cause." The[se] balance of incidents involved an expressed
interest, threat of use, or an attempt to acquire an agent. In the 1990s, incidents increased markedly, but most have been hoaxes.
The pathogens involved present a wide spectrum, from those with little ability to cause disease or disability, such as Ascaris suum,
to some of the familiar agents deemed most deadly, such as B. anthracis, ricin, plague, and botulinum toxins During this
period, the number of known deaths is only 10, while the total number of casualties is 990. However, the
numbers should not give a false sense of security that mass lethality is not achievable by a determined terrorist group. The sharp
increase in biological threats, hoaxes, information, and Internet sources on this subject seen in recent years indicates a growing
interest in the possible use of biological pathogens for nefarious means (4)\

Nukes don’t distract from bio weapons. This is shown because biological weapons are
being used and researched, all while nuclear weapons still exist:
The National Defense University recently compiled a study of more than 100 confirmed incidents of illicit use of biological agents
during this century (W.S. Carus, pers. comm. [4]). Of the 100 incidents, 29 involved agent acquisition, and of the 29, 19 involved the
actual nongovernmental use of an agent, and most were used for biocrimes, rather than for bioterrorism. In the context of this study,
the distinguishing feature of bioterrorism is that it involves the use of "violence on behalf of a political, religious, ecologic, or other
ideologic cause without reference to the moral or political justice of the cause." The balance of incidents involved an expressed
interest, threat of use, or an attempt to acquire an agent. In the 1990s, incidents increased markedly, but most have been hoaxes.
The pathogens involved present a wide spectrum, from those with little ability to cause disease or disability, such as Ascaris suum,
to some of the familiar agents deemed most deadly, such as B. anthracis, ricin, plague, and botulinum toxins During this period, the
number of known deaths is only 10, while the total number of casualties is 990. However, the numbers should not give a false sense
of security that mass lethality is not achievable by a determined terrorist group. The
sharp increase in biological
threats, hoaxes, information, and Internet sources on this subject seen in recent years
indicates a growing interest in the possible use of biological pathogens for nefarious
means (4)

Bio weapons are actually impractical to actually use. The amount of agent that you
would need to cover 100 square kilometers, and only kill HALF of the people in that
area, is MASSIVE. This means that the cost would be massive, and it would be
impractical to pay.
Examining the relationship between aerosol infectivity and toxicity versus quantity of agent illustrates the requirements for producing
equivalent effects and narrows the spectrum of possible agents that could be used to cause large numbers of casualities. For
example, the amount of agent needed to cover a 100-km2 area and cause 50% lethality is 8 metric
tons for even a "highly toxic" toxin such as ricin versus only kilogram quantities of anthrax
needed to achieve the same coverage. Thus, deploying an agent such as ricin over a wide area,
although possible, becomes impractical from a logistics standpoint, even for a well-funded
organization (7). The potential impact on a city can be estimated by looking at the effectiveness
of an aerosol in producing downwind casualties. The World Health Organization in 1970 modeled the results of a
hypothetical dissemination of 50 kg of agent along a 2-km line upwind of a large population center. Anthrax and tularemia are
predicted to cause the highest number of dead and incapacitated, as well as the greatest downwind spread (8).
Countries currently have bio weapons, even though there was a 1972 treaty signed.
This shows that even if an agreement is reached, that does not mean that it will be
followed. The same can be applied to deterrence, as it is commonly accepted and
agreed that nuclear weapons will not be used for fear of repercussions, but that does
not mean that you can be sure that they will not be used:
The accidental release of anthrax from a military testing facility in the former Soviet
Union in 1979 and Iraq's admission in 1995 to having quantities of anthrax, botulinum
toxin, and aflatoxin ready to use as weapons have clearly shown that research in the
offensive use of biological agents continued, despite the 1972 Biological Weapons
Convention (1,2). Of the seven countries listed by the U.S. Department of State as sponsoring international terrorism (3), at
least five are suspected to have biological warfare programs. There is no evidence at this time, however, that any state has provided
biological weapons expertise to a terrorist organization (4). A wide range of groups or individuals might use biological agents as
instruments of terror. At the most dangerous end of the spectrum [There] are large organizations that are well-funded and possibly
state-supported. They would be expected to cause the greatest harm, because of their access to scientific expertise, biological
agents, and most importantly, dissemination technology, including the capability to produce refined dry agent, deliverable in milled
particles of the proper size for aerosol dissemination. The Aum Shinrikyo in Japan is an example of a well-financed organization that
was attempting to develop biological weapons capability. However, they were not successful in their multiple attempts to release
anthrax and botulinum toxin (4). On this end of the spectrum, the list of biological agents available to cause mass casualties is small
and would probably include one of the classic biological agents. The probability of occurrence is low; however, the consequences of
a possible successful attack are serious.

Nukes cannot be handled however, thus nukes are worse. We can handle biological
weapons threats, because those are curable. We cannot cure instant death or large-
scale radiation:
In general, the existing public health systems should be able to handle most attempts to
release biological pathogens. A working group organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense
Studies recently looked at potential biological agents to decide which present the greatest risk for a maximum credible event from a
public health perspective. A maximum credible event would be one that could cause large loss of life, in addition to disruption, panic,
and overwhelming of the civilian health-care resources (12).
This shows that we are prepared for biological weapons threats and can respond to
them because biological weapons basically spread disease, which we can cure. We
cannot reverse the instant death caused by the explosion from a nuclear weapon, nor
can we reverse the radiation that inevitably follows.

Thomas W. McGovern, MD, MAJ, MC


George W. Christopher, LTC, USAF, MC
Terrorism is no more likely with state’s possession. If someone wanted to, they could,
rather easily, create biological weapons:
Agents can be easily procured from the environment, universities, biological supply
houses, and clinical specimens.[105] In fact, a white supremacist (who happened to be a
microbiologist) received a vial of Yersinia pestis shipped to his home by the American Type
Culture Collection in Rockville, MD.[113] Common fermentation techniques used for
producing antibiotics, toxoid vaccines, foods, and beverages can be used to grow large
quantities of biological agents. Simple aerosol generating devices mounted on planes or trucks, as used for crop-
dusting, can generate 1-5 micron particles ideal for causing infectious aerosols.[111] Aerosol particles 0.5-5 microns in diameter
settle in the alveoli; larger particles are cleared by respiratory mucosa, and smaller particles float in and out of the alveoli without
settling. BW agents are typically invisible in aerosol clouds and may not be detected until humans become ill. Panic would result as
medical capabilities are quickly overwhelmed.

Disadvantages to using BW agents as weapons include hazards to the user, their


dependence on optimal weather conditions to result in effective dispersal, and their
possible inactivation by solar irradiation and other climatic conditions. BW attacks would most
likely occur late at night or early in the morning when agents would be less likely to undergo inactivation by ultraviolet radiation. At
these times, atmospheric temperature inversions would allow an agent cloud to travel at low altitude to cover its target.

Governments and terrorists’ bio weapons would be different, so terrorists wouldn’t even want
government bio weapons. Terrorists are looking for mass damage, not tacticallity.

Pathogens may be used against personnel, animals, or plants. Agents may kill or incapacitate victims. Incapacitating agents may be
more effective in battle by both preventing a unit from carrying out its mission and overwhelming medical and evacuation assets.
Agents with short incubation times would be most effective in a tactical setting, while
those with longer incubation periods would appeal more to terrorists.[111]
Biological attacks against large populations would most likely be disseminated by aerosol. A respiratory portal of entry may cause
different clinical features than naturally occurring disease (e.g. anthrax occurs mainly as a cutaneous disease in nature, but causes
a rapidly lethal hemorrhagic mediastinitis when spores are inhaled).

We already have biological weapons.

Current unclassified information reveals that, despite


the 1972 Geneva Biological Weapons
Convention, at least seventeen countries are known or suspected of having offensive
biological weapons programs.[104] Clearly, BW is a credible threat to our military, as it was during Desert
Shield/Storm.[110] Terrorist use of BW agents could kill many people to create an unparalleled medical, political, and social crisis.
Despite the fact the biological weapons have never been used against the United States,[111] we must prepare for a new age of
terrorism.[105,106,109] Civilian health-care workers must know how to recognize a BW attack in the event of terrorist use of BW
agents on civilian populations.[109]
We have biological weapons, even though we’re not supposed to. This shows that deterence
does not work with biological weapons

Transmissions don’t occur. 8 people died in 15 cases, meaning that 1 person died in
every OTHER case, which shows the low transmission of biological weapons:
The potential risk of person-to-person transmission of zoonotic viruses is underscored by a
recent report from Argentina suggesting secondary transmission of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, [with an
accident] resulting in 15 cases and 8 deaths. In addition, infectious aerosols may be generated during
endotracheal suctioning and other medical procedures. Although nosocomial transmission of HF in Africa has been interrupted by
standard universal precautions without additional respiratory measures, adding respiratory protection as an infection control
measure is advised by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention because information regarding exposure and transmission in
humans is limited. Infections can be prevented by avoiding contact with vectors and reservoirs, practicing standard hospital infection
control procedures, patient isolation, disinfection, and reporting cases to public health officials.[25,44]

Yellow Rain attacks don’t work. Just taking a bath fixes the problem.:
A protective mask and full-body clothing should be donned at the first sign of a ‘yellow rain’ attack. Afterwards, battle dress uniforms
(BDUs) and contaminated areas of skin should be washed with soap and water followed by a water rinse. Washing
within
4-6 hours of exposure removes 80-98% of the toxin and prevented death and dermal
lesions in experimental animals. No known specific therapy exists, although high doses of systemic steroids
decreases primary and secondary toxin injury.[8]

Smallpox doesn’t kill people:


More lesions were present in convex than concave areas. Crusts would detach in about 3 weeks leaving depressed, hypopigmented
scars.[16,18,105,118] Virus could be cultured from crusts throughout convalescence.[123]
Several clinical varieties of smallpox were described. ‘Ordinary’
smallpox (variola major), present in 80% of patients, led
to 3% mortality among the vaccinated but [and] 30% among the unvaccinated. The most
virulent form, hemorrhagic smallpox, was seen in less than 3% of patients. 96% of these patients died, usually before they
developed typical pox lesions.[124]

Biological weapons threats are easily detectable.


“Scientists at Boston University have developed a biological sensor that could be used to rapidly
detect[s] a wide range of viral pathogens including the lethal Ebola and Marburg
viruses, the institution announced last week.”
http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20101124_7290.php

Bio Weapons don’t kill people


Table 1. Estimated casualties for BW attack on a city of 500,000
AGENT DOWNWIND DEAD INCAPACITATED
REACH (km)

Rift Valley Fever 1 400 35,000

Tick-borne 1 9500 35,000


encephalitis

Typhus 5 19,000 85,000

Brucellosis 10 500 100,000

Q-fever >20 150 125,000

Tularemia >20 30,000 125,000


Anthrax >20 95,000 125,000

BURDENS NEG MUST FULFILL:


Although many pathogens and toxins cause disease or intoxication of humans,
relatively few would actually be effective if employed as biological weapons (Exhibit 20-
1). For a number of reasons, some that might be useful on a small scale, such as an
assassination weapon or a terrorist weapon, would normally not be applicable on a
large scale. The key factors that make a biological pathogen or toxin suitable for a
large-scale biowarfare
attack include: (a) availability or ease of production in sufficient quantity; ( b) the ability
to cause either lethal or incapacitating effects in humans at doses that are achievable
and deliverable; (c) appropriate particle size in aerosol; (d) ease of dissemination; (e)
stability (while maintaining virulence) after production in storage, weapons, and the
environment;
and (f) susceptibility of intended victims with nonsusceptibility of friendly forces.