Bioterrorism and Plague
Plague, also known as Yesirnia pestis, has wreaked havoc since the first documented outbreak in the 6th century, along with changing the course of history. Although bubonic plague is the most common form of plague, pneumonic plague is the more fatal form of the bacteria. It is the only form that has been successfully aerosolized by man and has the potential of taking down a mass of people in days. If used as a bioweapon, it would cause major damage. This paper is designed to inform you of the history, the facts, and the precautions needed to prevent a bioterrorist attack. In 1970, The World Health Organization estimated that 50 kg, or 110 lb, of Y. pestis sprayed over a city would infect 150,000 individuals and kill about 40,000 (Grey, p.218).
Throughout history, there have been plague epidemics that have killed thousands of people. From the Athenian plague starting in 430 B.C. to the famous Black Death in 1346, people from all over the world have been caught in chaos with insufficient treatments and no reliable way of preventing this horrible disease from spreading. Today, vast medical advancements have yielded successful treatments for the plague, but people are still highly susceptible to widespread disaster if a bioterrorist attack does manage to occur.
In 430-26 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, which was fought between Sparta and Athens, overcrowded conditions in the cities allowed plague to spread quickly. It claimed tens of thousands of victims including Pericles, the former leader of Athens. We know of this outbreak because of the last remaining source: Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War (Smith, p. 1). Having been through the plague himself, Thucydides described the symptoms with the intention of educating future generations should another outbreak occur (Thucydides qtd. In Smith, p 1). And, indeed, another broke out again.
The Justinian plague of 561 AD is another example of how badly plague can impact society. It originated in Ethiopia then moved up to Egypt and into Europe killing sixty percent of the populations of Europe, North Africa, and southern and central Asia (Grey, p. 216). Trade made it possible for plague to spread quickly throughout the world. Because trade was so popular during that time plague moved faster than ever. Merchants would travel around trading with each other and taking that deadly disease with them as well.
Of all these plague epidemics, the Black Death of 1346 is the most widely known. As an example of severity, China’s population alone dropped from 125 million to 90 million over the course of the fourteenth century due to plague (Boise state, p.1). In Europe, anywhere between 25% to 50% of Europe’s population had fallen victim to this pestilence. If a bioterrorist attack using plague does manage to occur today, the number of deaths will not be as dramatic but the loss will still be significant.
There are three main types of existing plagues: Bubonic plague,...