Preparing for and Preventing Bioterrorism: Strengthening the U.S. Public Health Infrastructure Is the Key to Enhancing the Nation's Safety. (Perspectives)

By Hamburg, Margaret A. | Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Preparing for and Preventing Bioterrorism: Strengthening the U.S. Public Health Infrastructure Is the Key to Enhancing the Nation's Safety. (Perspectives)


Hamburg, Margaret A., Issues in Science and Technology


The tragic events of September 11th, followed by the recent anthrax incidents, have made us painfully aware of our nation's vulnerability to terrorism, including bioterrorism. Although once considered a remote concern, the possibility that a biological agent might be intentionally used to cause widespread panic, disease, and death is now a common concern. Whether the event involves an unsophisticated delivery system with a limited number of true cases, as we have seen with the current anthrax scare, or a carefully orchestrated attack with mass casualties, the prospects are frightening. As the United States mobilizes to address an array of overlapping foreign policy, infectious disease, and national security threats, it must make sure that a comprehensive program to counter and prevent bioterrorism ranks high on the priority list.

The threat of bioterrorism is fundamentally different from other threats we face, such as conventional explosives or even a chemical or nuclear weapon. By its very nature, the bioweapons threat, with its close links to naturally occurring infectious agents and disease, requires a different strategy. Meaningful progress against this threat depends on understanding it in the context of epidemic disease. It requires different investments and different partners. Without this recognition, the nation's preparedness programs will be inadequate, and we may miss critical opportunities to prevent such an attack from occurring in the first place.

Biological terrorism is not a "lights and sirens" kind of attack. Unless the release is announced or fortuitous discovery occurs early on, there will be no discrete event to signal that an attack has happened, and no site that can be cordoned off while authorities take care of the casualties, search for clues, and eventually clean up and repair the damage. Instead, a bioterrorism event would most likely unfold as a disease epidemic, spread out in time and place before authorities even recognize that an attack has occurred. Recognition that an attack had occurred would emerge only when people began appearing in their doctor's office or an emergency room with unusual symptoms or inexplicable disease. In fact, it may prove difficult to' ever identify the perpetrators or the site of release--or even to determine whether the disease outbreak was intentional or naturally occurring.

The first responders to a bioterroism event would be public health officials and health care workers. Unfortunately, in many scenarios, diagnosis of the problem may be delayed, because medical providers and labs are not equipped to recognize and deal with the disease agents of greatest concern. What is more, effective medical interventions may be limited, and where they exist, the window of opportunity for successful intervention would be narrow. The outbreak is likely to persist over a prolonged period--months to years--because of disease contagion or continuing exposure. The speed of recognition and response to an attack will be pivotal in reducing casualties and controlling disease.

Not only are biological weapons capable of causing extraordinary devastation, but they are relatively easy to produce, inexpensive, and capable of causing significant damage even when small quantities are delivered by simple means. In addition, information about how to obtain and prepare bioweapons is increasingly available through the Internet, the open scientific literature, and other sources. Opportunities for access to dangerous pathogens can be fairly routine; some of these organisms are commonly found in nature or are the subject of legitmate study in government, academic, and industry labs. Furthermore, bioweapons facilities can be hidden within legitimate research laboratories or pharmaceutical manufacturing sites.

Developing a response

Although there are enormous challenges before us, many of the elements of a comprehensive approach are relatively straightforward. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Preparing for and Preventing Bioterrorism: Strengthening the U.S. Public Health Infrastructure Is the Key to Enhancing the Nation's Safety. (Perspectives)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.