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Written for:
Senior Literature
October 8, 1998

Biological Weapons
By: Nick Rudat

Biological weapons are something the world would be better without. They cause fear and death and are not to anyone’s advantage. Biological weapons have been a controversy and a threat to the entire world for many years now. Some people think of them as fictional things that only exist in movies. But, the horrible truth is that they are very real and very deadly. Countries have been developing and testing such weapons for years with the only grounds that everyone else does it.

According to Edward C. Cass, biological warfare is simply a method of warfare in which incapacitating biological agents are used to defeat or attempt to defeat an enemy. Up to about the 20th century the only examples of biological war were things like the poisoning of a well. But today we have developed weapons in the form of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and toxins that cause diseases that can attack humans, livestock, or even vital crops. Several major nations spend millions of dollars on funding for the research of possible biological weapons. Genetic engineering offers the chance of developing newer and more powerful strains of contagious viruses and diseases that can be used against an enemy. This research can develop weapons that the opposing side may not be able to defend themselves against. It may be a horrid thing to imagine, but in 1980 Japan admitted they had used biological agents against the Chinese in the 1930s and late 1940s. (1-2)

One of the more frightening aspects of biological weapons is that they are easy to get. Reason being they are very easy to make. It doesn’t take much knowledge. Some can be made in school laboratories using readily available items. Instructions for these agents can be found in numerous places. This is considered a problem for the single reason that it may become a terrorist threat. Any biological attack by a terrorist could be for any number of reasons. From something political or religious, to any form of radical justification (Vegar 2).

Biological weapons are seen as weapons of mass destruction. They are capable of harming or killing things without doing any damage to material things. Another thing about biological weapons is they effect people without discrimination. One thing that favors use is that most agents have a long and slow effect. Then on top of things small quantities can be used over big areas (Vegar 11).

Biological weapons use pathogenic microorganisms from humans, plants, or animals to sicken, weaken, or kill, by infection of a disease. Normally the agent is either a bacteria, virus, or fungi. Aside from being easy to make and spread over an area, the weapon can actually reproduce and spread from person to person. This means a greater area of infection using a smaller dose of the weapon. As well as spreading, the agent can survive for long periods of time even in extreme conditions and some can resist antibodies and vaccines (Veger 12).

Some agents that are feared to be stored in biological weapons plants are forms of hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, anthrax, glanders, and salmonella. Biological weapons can be traced back to the times of the Romans and Greeks. They found use of a biological weapon to be so brutal they created laws against its use during wars. So when ever a war was fought, regardless of the enemy, there was no use of such weapons (Vegar 12).

Among the many things that are being done to prevent the development and distribution of biological weapons there is one well known and out spoken organization, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (B.T.W.C.) which was formed in 1972. They have gotten military experts to see that biological weapons should be, and are, considered a major threat. Due to their actions facilities that have the resources to possibly create these weapons to list any possible biological threat. If any facility is founds to be lying or withholding information they can get their license suspended and be shut down for good (Gavaghan 1-2).

One possible agent that can be easily used is cholera. Cholera is a very infectious disease, which can cause diarrhea, loss of water, and loss of salts in stool. Sever cholera can cause violent vomiting and diarrhea, thirst, muscle cramps, and circulatory collapse. Death can be a few hours after the victim starts having symptoms. The mortality rate of cholera is more than 50% but can be reduced to less than 1% with proper treatment (Abramowicz 1).

The causative agent of cholera is the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae, this was discovered by Robert Koch in 1883. Infection is due to food or water that is contaminated by bacteria from the stools of victims. Therefore prevention is just a matter of sanitation. Epidemics swept through the United States and Europe in the 19th century. After conditions of water and food improved it did not happen again. However, cholera is still a problem in Asia today. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) says that 78% of the population in less developed countries are without clean water and adequate fecal waste disposal (Abramowicz 1). Even though the conditions here are much better it could still cause a problem is cholera were used as a biological weapon. Due to advances in technology and modern science knowledge it may not be too difficult to create a stronger version of an easily avoidable agent like cholera. If cholera were made to act faster and were harder to overcome by flushing the body with fluids, it could be a very scary biological weapon.

An even worse possibility is the use of level 4 agents. In the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) there are agents which are very deadly, very easy to transmit and have no cure. AIDS is not considered a level 4 virus because it is not as easy to transmit as the Ebola virus. A person who isn’t wearing a “space suit”, a pressurized airtight suit, cannot even work with the virus. If the right level 4 virus were to be used as a biological weapon it could easily wipe out a place the size of Texas in a time span of about 2 to 3 weeks. To make things even worse, there is little that can be done to stop it. The only way to keep something like a level 4 virus from spreading all over the states is to contain it to the area it has affected and let it run its course with the hope that not too many people die.

Ebola is a prime example of a level 4 virus that can be easily used as a biological weapon. This virus is very deadly and very fast. Even the weaker strains like Ebola Sudan are capable of killing many. In order to get access to something like Ebola all a person would have to do is watch the news. There are outbreaks every so often I remote parts of Africa and with protection it wouldn’t be hard to go in and get some tainted blood from a dying victim. I used properly the virus could then be introduced into a public water system or food source. Within a short amount of time, huge cities could be wiped out. More densely populated areas like Detroit or New York would spread the agent more quickly. And with air travel it can be sent further, faster.

Biological weapons are very dangerous, very scary, and very deadly things. They can be easily made or gathered using very little knowledge or resources. The possibility of being used as a terrorist attack is very threatening. Even with governments working against biological weapons they are being made and developed all the time, some with government funding. The world would be a much safer place without the use or development of biological weapons.

Bibliography Abramowicz, Mark. “Cholera.” Encarta 98, 1993-1997. CD-ROM. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998

“Anthrax.” Encarta 98. 1993-1997. CD-ROM. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998

Cass, Edward C. “Chemical and Biological Warfare.” Encarta 98. 1993-1997. CD-ROM. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998

Gavaghan, Helen. “Arms Control Enters the Biology Lab.” Science 3 July, 1998: 29-32

Padilla, Maria Luisa. “Tuberculosis.” Encarta 98. 1993-1997. CD-ROM. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998

Vegar, Jose. “Terrorism’s New Breed.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. March-April 1998: 50-56.

Grade Received:
97% A

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