Cover Image

PAPERBACK
$45.00



View/Hide Left Panel

ly covert use of biological weapons against crops or livestock. Such actions could also be carried out for the purpose of “economic warfare.”

Whereas potential chemical weapons agents are well studied, and methods to counter most of them have been created, the situation is fundamentally different for biological agents. It is important to recall that biological agents do not act immediately but have an incubation period during which the carrier of an illness could end up in completely different geographical conditions from the location where the biological agents were released. Such cases are very difficult to detect and differentiate from natural outbreaks; therefore, comprehensive and potentially time-consuming epidemiological analysis is required to prove that an outbreak is of a bioterrorist nature. In the case of the contamination of the salad bars with salmonella, it was only after a year that it was proven a terrorist act, and the U.S. public learned of the incident only many years later.5

Neither should we forget that the natural environment that surrounds us is an inexhaustible source of microorganisms—viruses, bacteria, and fungi—that cause diseases in humans, plants, and animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) deems infectious diseases to be the world’s second leading cause of death and the leading cause of premature death. According to WHO estimates, 2 billion people annually suffer from infectious diseases, of whom 17 million die. Some 50,000 deaths per day result from infectious diseases, and half of the world’s population is threatened by epidemic diseases.6

There are also other reasons for which biological agents could be a preferred tool for terrorists, primarily including their accessibility; their ease of preparation, storage, and shipment; and their capacity for covert use. The threat of bioterrorism requires the health care sector to maintain an exceedingly high level of readiness to detect the most dangerous agents and eliminate the consequences of their intentional use.

• • •

Russia began taking measures to counter bioterrorism in 1997. The Interagency Antiterrorism Commission of the Russian Federation was created to handle operational matters, and it includes a section on bioterrorism, the members of which are specialists from a number of ministries and agencies. In 1999, on the initiative of the Russian Ministry of Health, the commission was presented with a concept describing how state agencies are to act in the event of emergencies due to terrorism involving the use of biological or chemical weapons. The same year saw the approval of the Federal Targeted Program on the Creation of Methods and Means of Protecting the Population and the Urban Environment from Dangerous and Especially Dangerous Pathogens in Emergency Situations of Natural and Industrial Origin during 1999–2005 (hereafter referred to as the Pathogens Defense Program). This program sets forth the following priorities: basic research on pathogens; forecasting of infectious disease outbreaks; and specific



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement