Usage of Plague as a Biological Weapon
Bioterrorism is defined as the intentional use of dangerous microorganisms or viruses to kill a large population of people. Common examples of biological agents include anthrax, botulism, smallpox, and the plague. The most common form is the bubonic plague that caused the deaths of a large percentage of the population in Europe during the Middle Ages. The bacterium, Yersinia pestis, causes three forms of the plague; however the pneumonic plague is used in bioterrorism because of its advantages in transmission and production. To be infected with the pneumonic plague, a person simply needs to breathe in enough of the aerosolized bacteria to allow them to incubate inside the body. Symptoms usually appear two to four days afterward and treatment consists of antibiotics and hospitalization. Death occurs if an infected person does not receive medical aid within 48 hours of symptom appearance. Its advantages as a pathogen make the plague an impending biological weapon.
The halls are empty and dark. The clock on the lounge wall reads 2:34 AM and a few nurses finish their routine patient checks at the General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The slight humming and beeps from the machines are the only sounds heard in the hospital as the last nurse quietly returns to her office. Unknown to the staff and patients, a terrorist attack has been launched within the building. There are no alarms, warnings, or signs that signal that anything has happened. From the outside, it would seem as if it was simply another night at the hospital. Yet, millions of aerosolized bacteria have been released into the air through the air conditioning system, causing every room with an air conditioning vent to explode with this biological agent. And for every breath of air a person takes in will only open their bodies to infection. In the morning, more than half of these patients and faculty will carry the bacteria that may lead to infection and eventually death.
Like this possible scenario, bioterrorism can easily find its way into any place at any time and infect hundreds, even thousands of lives. They are possibly more dangerous than past weaponry because they can travel undetected, and spread farther
Usage of Plague as a Biological Weapon 2
and faster than an average bomb. For whereas a bomb simply kills those at a specific target, biological agents can spread through a vast area by its host before symptoms even arise. Biological warfare engages in the use of contagious bacteria, fungi, viruses, and toxins. They are released through food, water, or in this case, air. One specific bacterium, Yersinia pestis, has been experimented with and used in war since the 1970s. This bacterium normally causes the bubonic plague or “black death” of the Dark Ages in Europe, but if contracted in its inhalant form, the patient becomes infected with the pneumonic plague, which is commonly used in bioterrorism. The mortality rate for this disease is...