Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are We Paying Too Little Attention to the Bioterrorism Threat?

I am scared of bioterrorism. I can think of many ways even that a solo actor could wreak mass devastation on humankind.

Here's just one scenario.
UPDATE: I've now deleted the scenario because I've spoken with a true authority who says it's feasible. I don't want to take the chance of encouraging terrorism. 

An clearly unfeasible version of that I posted months ago has been reposted on one or more Internet sites but leaving that there presents insignificant risk.

I can, alas, think of other seemingly feasible solo-actor Armageddon plans. Among the world's seven billion people, I'd imagine that at least one deranged but brilliant person could develop and execute an Armageddon plan that would actually work.

I am a bit reassured by this: If such an act were so likely, why hasn't it happened yet? But only a bit.


Anonymous said...

A threat originating in the academic community doesn't sound far fetched to me. A Bio terrorist act along the lines you describe is terrifying indeed. I have my own mass terror/destruction nightmare related to an EMP event, absent any meaningful domestic preparation (grid etc. hardening) efforts. Whatever form of terrorist or government incompetence event (i.e., currency/EBT card collapse) one might consider, the greatest threat to individual survival under such a circumstance is population density. Got a country cousin Marty?

Maria Lopez said...

While the scenario you described is unlikely to work because smallpox is an airborne virus and could probably not be transmitted effectively through contaminated oranges and is also harder to obtain than your scenario suggests, bioterrorism is still quite possible even if armageddon scale events might be hard to cause.

Remember, that the worst natural disease events were probably the Black Plague outbreaks in medieval Europe and Asia. While these caused substantial reductions in the human population, they didn't end the world.

While during an event like that avoiding people as the other poster suggested the best prevention is funding observation of emerging diseases is our best chance to catch it early. We should also continue to provide good water and sewage treatment.

Public health is expensive and something people resist it since it can involve people from the government sticking needles in you. Especially, in the case of smallpox can will cause some side effects including fatalities. A large scale bioterrorist attack would would result in a big mess even if not armageddon.


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