Bioterrorism Free Essay Samples & Outline

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Essay on Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism, for this paper, is defined as the deliberate release of biological agents or bio agents to cause harm to the environment or people. Due to technological advancements, the number of biological attacks has skyrocketed globally. The increased attacks culminate from the availability of tools and materials that are engineered in laboratories. Bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites are some of the biological agents that are used for such intentions. These bioagents have the power to affect humans in some ways, ranging from allergies to serious effects such as disease or death. It is important to note that most of these agents are found in nature but are altered in laboratories to make them more potent on their targets.

Bioterrorism is a major worry for most nations as it can be very hard to detect and contain once an attack happens. During the recent decades, the improvement in biotechnology and genetic engineering has made it easier for scientists to create such agents increasing the threat of bioterrorism (Mugavero et al., 2015). Some of these biological agents can be spread quickly through, air, water or even in the food we consume. Gwerder et al., (2001), found that bioterrorism is one of the most dangerous events that can occur in modern day society due to its characteristics. According to the author, terrorists may release bio weapons to attack various sites to enable the spread of the virus to other individuals. For instance, terrorists may attack a worksite to enable the virus to spread via air or water to the community, or through secondary infections to other workmates.

According to Riedel, bioterrorism is not a new phenomenon as it was used in the past during warfare, as early as 600 BC infectious diseases were recognised to have adverse effects on people and the military (2004). In the early days, cadavers and animal corpses were used to spread diseases in the enemies’ territories. Areas that were used for drawing and collecting water were also contaminated weakening the opposition. A good example of bioterrorism in earlier times is the Caffa siege of 1396 in modern day Ukraine. The Tartars who had experienced a plague used the corpses of their dead colleagues to spread the disease outbreak in the city.

This move subsequently led to the death of more than 20 million people in Europe and some parts of North Africa marking one of the greatest instances of bioterrorism documented to date. Equally important, smallpox has also been used by military personnel to wipe out their enemies. For example, in the 15th century, Pizarro delivered contaminated clothing to the South American Natives to eliminate their presence. Moreover, Amherst, who controlled the British forces in North America, decided to use smallpox to eradicate the Indians who were very hostile to the British army; as a result, a considerable number of fomites were evident, and this paved the way for the British army to execute their mission.

In 2001, the US suffered Anthrax attacks, which were later determined to be acts of bioterrorism. This attack came shortly after the 9/11 bombings of the same year. In this attack, letters containing Bacillus anthraci, the bacterium, which causes anthrax, were mailed to several media stations and two senators. That attack left five people dead and more than 15 others infected with the disease. Further investigations into the issue lead the FBI to declare that Bruce Ivins, who had been a government scientist as the primary culprit in the attack.

The studies and method of surveillance by the FBI did however not convince everyone that Irvin, who had already committed suicide in 2005, was behind the attacks. Following these attacks, the US Congress hurriedly passed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Among the significant changes that the law introduced, is the requirement for organizations involved in the food industry must register with Food and Drug department. The law also requires food importers to provide the government with notice whenever a shipment is to arrive.

Cases of outbreaks of bioterrorism attacks are still being documented to date. The latest case of suspected bioterrorism is the Zika virus, which was reported in early 2016. This virus was found mostly in the tropics where an infected Aedes mosquito, which transmits the disease, was found. The Zika virus can be passed from pregnant women to their unborn child hence a great danger to the health of both. In the international scene, the virus interfered with the planning of the recent Rio Olympics in Brazil, making some athletes to withdraw from the games.

Many countries have boards, which have the mandate of detecting and responding to bioterrorism attacks to prevent or minimise the threat of bioterrorism, especially on the food system. Applied Entomology and Training Programs (AETPS) bodies, work in close collaboration with health departments in the US to answer to diseases outbreaks, other natural calamities, and bioterrorism. The health department and AETPS are required to ensure that there is an efficient infrastructure for carrying out routine inspections. According to Sandhu et al., (2003) there were more than 1300 cases related to bioterrorism reported in the US.

Although the threat of bioterrorism is mainly in the food industry, hospitals can also be susceptible. The US government, for example, provides funds to local authorities to aid in preparedness. The bulk of this money is intended for hospitals. In addition to funding, the government also came up with other measures to prevent bioterrorism. One of these measures is community involvement. Community involvement includes educating the public on bioterrorism, its dangers, and prevention and mitigation methods. It requires the whole community to participate in the case of any emergency of this nature. Hospital staff education is another vital area of focus. Hospital staff education involves training staff on programs such as AETP, how to provide care to bioterrorism patients and drugs to administer. Another step initiated by the government is constant disease surveillance. Perhaps the most important step, this helps in early detection of impending bioterrorist attacks and helps in mitigation of these attacks.

In dealing with the threat of bioterrorism, it is important for bodies given that task to think along the lines of what possible targets exist. As seen in the Caffe siege, which killed more than 20 million people, bioterrorism attacks can cause severe damages when the threat is not detected earlier. Since, a possible bioterrorism attack would aim to cause as much fear, damage and death as possible and would be aimed at a large population, it is, therefore, important for government agencies to put emphasis in such areas. Though not all agents can be altered for bioterrorism, it is important to conduct further research on the remedies for all of the documented bio agents. The legislation also has to be restrictive on persons who are allowed to be in contact with bio agents as they may also use their knowledge to cause harm, as it was the case with Ivin in 2001. Some of the bio agents that terrorist might be interested in due to their functionality; availability and efficiency of destruction are mentioned below.


Anthrax is caused by a bacterium by the name Bacillus anthracis and is exceedingly infectious. Anthrax is found mainly in cattle, specifically herbivores but can be transmitted to when there is contact with humans. As a bioterrorism threat, the first record of anthrax was in the early 20th century. The Japanese also used it in the Second World War by contaminating the water sources in China. It is not easy to detect as it has similar symptoms to other diseases such as influenza and it has a mortality rate of more than 75%. It is advisable that health authorities be informed as soon as possible when there is suspicion of anthrax as it kills in an average of 36 hours from the development of symptoms.


Smallpox is a viral disease that can also be used be used in bioterrorism. Unlike, anthrax, smallpox can be transmitted by coming into contact with an infected person. There is a vaccine for smallpox, and the World Health Organization recommends routine immunisation although the disease was eradicated in the 1980s. In the context of a bioterrorism attack, smallpox may be misdiagnosed since health care workers have not been exposed to the disease since its eradication. The terrorist may also use smallpox due to the few numbers of laboratories with the capability of detecting the disease; thus, it would take a long time before it is contained.

Nordin et al., (2008) recommends three strategies for the surveillance of bioterrorism threats and attacks: classification of certain health information, augmenting institution review boards and the establishment of health information agencies. Following the 2001 attacks, Nordin et al. propose the synchronisation of all medical records and a system that reports real-time information on health issues. A Real-time feed of information they reckon, will help in early detection of bioterrorist attacks and curb the spreading of the same.

Classification of individual health information will also contribute during an intentional assault, as the enemy will not be privy to the government’s activities. In addition to that, privatisation of such information will reduce access to information on bio agents since the terrorist’s goal to cause harm although issues of ethics and suspicion may arise between the government and its citizens can use such knowledge. Synchronisation of medical records helps in keeping records of attacks, patients, vaccines and symptoms of diseases caused by such bioagents. This also helps in predicting future trends in bioterrorism. Health information agencies will provide people with symptoms of the diseases and measures to take in case of suspicion or diagnosis.

According to Yahav et al., most countries are more susceptible to bioterrorism attacks than conventional forms of warfare (2013). The paper also estimates that more than a quarter of the population in the US could be affected if an anthrax attack happened. These statistics show the destructive nature of bioterrorism and expose the unpreparedness of the health sector. In the event of an outbreak of a disease such as smallpox, it may be hard to determine whether an outbreak is due to natural calamity or an act of terror. We have also seen that diseases such as smallpox and anthrax may be difficult to diagnose since they have symptoms of other diseases. Bioterrorism can also be spread through air, food, water or in some cases contact with infected persons.

It is with this understanding that governments around the world should do more to reduce the risk of bioterrorism because the threat has its origins from early years and continues to increase because of higher technological developments. Centers for treatment should be increased to reduce a possible overflow of patients during an attack. Methods for establishing whether an attack is natural or premeditated should be put in place to aid in the prevention of further attacks. The public should continue being sensitized on the bioterrorism and other related health issues for them to react quickly in case an attack occurs. Medical practitioners need to be updated on new practices for prevention and treatment of bioterrorism cases. Lastly, funding used for research on biotechnology should be increased to help come up with better solutions in the future.


Gwerder, Laurie Jean, MS,R.N., E.M.T., Beaton, Randal,PhD., E.M.T., & Daniell, William,M.D., M.P.H. (2001). Bioterrorism: Implications for the occupational and environmental health nurse. AAOHN Journal, 49(11), 512-518.
Mugavero, R., Sabato, V., Basso, M., D'Amico, W., & Benolli, F. (2015). Bioterrorism: New technologies for global emergencies and public health. Journal of Information Privacy & Security, 11(4), 262-273.
Nordin, James D,M.D., M.P.H., Kasimow, S., B.A., Levitt, M. J., M.B.C., & Goodman, M. J., PhD. (2008). Bioterrorism surveillance and privacy: Intersection of HIPAA, the common rule, and public health law. American Journal of Public Health, 98(5), 802-7
Riedel, S. (2004). Biological warfare and bioterrorism: a historical review. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 17(4), 400–406.
Sandhu, H. S., Thomas, C., Nsubuga, P., & White, M. E. (2003). A global network for early warning and response to infectious diseases and bioterrorism: Applied epidemiology and training programs, 2001. American Journal of Public Health, 93(10), 1640-2.
Yahav, I., Barnes, S., Golden, B., & Wasil, E. (2013). Early detection of bioterrorism: Monitoring disease diffusion through a multilayered network. IIE Annual Conference.Proceedings, , 2561-2570.