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Terrorist threats as one of the urgent problems in modern society pose a danger not only due to potentially serious consequences but also the variety of attack methods. Today, extremists resort to many opportunities to carry out their criminal activities with the help of different resources, and the development of technologies is one of the stimulating factors. Due to the variety of threats, there is a classification of hazards in accordance with a special CBRN system – chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear dangers. Each of these types involves individual countermeasures and protections because the agents of the CBRN categories affect differently. In order to assess the possible implications of danger and specific countermeasures, the biological category will be considered, including its features and manifestations. The purpose of this work is to describe a biological terrorist threat through the introduction of a smallpox toxin in Atlanta, Georgia, followed by the assessment of potentially effective countermeasures. This type of extremist danger may defeat a large area, and collaboration, along with the use of highly efficient technological equipment to identify and eliminate the consequences of such an attack, is essential.
Selected CBRN Agent Background
As a selected biological threat agent, smallpox toxin will be considered. According to Tharratt and Albertson (2016), although today, this virus is only found in laboratories in the USA and Russia, the danger of infection is not diminished. The reason for this is that smallpox is transmitted through the air, and the incubation period is about 45 days, which makes it difficult to assess toxin leakage immediately (Tu, 2017). The governments of the leading countries of the world express concerns about the possibility of applying the causative agents of dangerous infections that can cause large-scale epidemics. As Johnson and Nolan (2016) note, large US pharmaceutical companies receive government orders for the production of smallpox vaccines. Moreover, according to the authors, despite the fact that more than 20 years have passed since the announcement of the complete elimination of smallpox as a disease, this illness still poses a significant threat (Johnson & Nolan, 2016). Specialists put this virus in the first place on the list of the most dangerous infections. Therefore, biological terrorism with the use of this agent is extremely dangerous from the standpoint of defeating the population.
When assessing the extent of the defeat by the given biological terrorism agent, it is essential to clarify some historical facts about it that may explain its danger. Valdes and Valdes (2018) mention that it was probably smallpox that completely destroyed the Inca and Aztec civilizations after the Spanish conquistadors brought the virus into the New World. Despite significant advances in medicine, various strains of this pathological disease exist today. The carriers of many of them are animals, and it is hard to limit people’s contact with the livestock that supposedly contains the virus. As a result, in case of a terrorist act by using this biological agent, human casualties may be in the hundreds and thousands since there is no full guarantee of safety. Tharratt and Albertson (2016) state that in unvaccinated people, the percentage of deaths from smallpox is 30%, which is an extremely high indicator (p. 13). Therefore, the threat of such an attack is serious and requires attention from the responsible authorities supervising national security.
Proposed Terrorist Scenario
Infecting the population with a smallpox virus as an effective biological agent is one of the possible options for an attack. Despite the fact that vaccines against this disease exist, the current trend of the abandonment of appropriate drugs increases the chances of an epidemic. In addition, according to Aggrawal (2016), “humans no more immunized against some agents such as smallpox” (p. 541). Therefore, in order to cause the greatest damage, it is essential to consider a strategy for introducing the virus where the elimination of the consequences of the epidemic will be most difficult. As a target, the city of Atlanta, Georgia, is selected for an attack.
However, first, it is necessary to assess how prepared the local healthcare facilities are to deal with the consequences of the epidemic. For this purpose, it is necessary to familiarize oneself with the statistical reporting of individual medical institutions. These data, as a rule, are freely available, and it will not be difficult to analyze them and draw conclusions regarding the presence or absence of appropriate resources, in particular, antiviral vaccines. In addition, such a review will make it possible to determine the number of patients related to specific clinics and find out about all the registered cases of smallpox infection. As a result, with such information, it will be easier to understand which of the districts of the city are the least prepared to eliminate the smallpox epidemic.
Further, it is crucial to consider the mechanism for introducing the virus and its spread. Old methods described by Aggrawal (2016), for instance, the spread of contaminated clothing, as the colonists did during the fight against Native Americans, can still be effective. For this purpose, shelters for the poor can be a good place for sabotage because people living in such places are needy and forced to use second-hand clothes. Since many of them have low social status, the lack of appropriate vaccines may contribute to spreading the infection fast. Constant contact with the staff of shelters, including medical employees, will allow the virus to spread everywhere. Since the incubation period of smallpox lasts more than a month, interested parties will not be able to understand timely how the infection began to spread and why clinic patients have corresponding symptoms. One of the most important tasks is to search for the necessary virus samples. In the future, the transfer of the infection will not be difficult since the act of transmitting contaminated clothing may be presented as a charity. Therefore, the entire plan is reliable and can be implemented simply.
Since a smallpox transmission plan has a potential risk to the population, it is crucial to develop an appropriate prevention strategy. As Rowland, Brown, Delehanty, and Medintz (2016) argue, today, this virus is one of the most threatening bioagents, and protection against the epidemic is highly significant in the context of counter-terrorism measures. Bilala and Galamas (2015) confirm the danger of such a prospect and note that in case of the threat of bioterrorism, passivity is unacceptable. To begin with, it is essential to ensure the complete control of products, clothing, and other things in specific public places where potential infection may spread. Medical personnel should have appropriate biomaterials for vaccinating the population, and educational work aimed at highlighting the threat of bioterrorism should be conducted. Gronvall (2017) notes that in case of a threat, engaging as many interested parties as possible is vital to provide an intelligence background. A team of specialists is implied with different powers and the scope of work.
Law enforcement officials should tighten control over suspicious individuals and ensure a comprehensive check of public places and crowding centers for unidentified objects. Medical personnel, in turn, need to monitor any non-standard symptoms and take emergency measures to isolate patients in case of an initial diagnosis of smallpox. Involving modern technology is necessary, in particular, equipment with highly functional algorithms for the assessment of the state of air and timely identification of biological threats. Saito et al. (2018) state that such devices make it possible to evaluate the concentration of harmful substances contained in a specific territory and give a timely signal. In general, training should be organized and widespread in order to achieve public safety. As Burke (2017) remarks, a smallpox epidemic can cause hundreds of victims if responsible stakeholders are unprepared for preventative measures. Therefore, a safety strategy should be based on the involvement of a large number of interested parties and the use of high-tech devices.
The threat of the terrorist act under consideration through a biological attack and the use of such an agent as a smallpox virus may be prevented due to interested parties’ collaborative work and the utilization of modern technology. The danger of an epidemic in Atlanta, Georgia, is significant if no security measures are taken. The spread of contaminated items and, in particular, clothing, maybe identified through enhanced control by law enforcement agencies and the application of those devices that signal changes in the air.
Aggrawal, A. (2016). Terrorism: Nuclear and biological terrorism. Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 4, 533-44. Web.
Bilala, A. Y., & Galamas, F. (2015). A bioterrorism prevention initiative: A collaborative approach. The Nonproliferation Review, 22(1), 83-92. Web.
Burke, R. A. (2017). Counter-terrorism for emergency responders (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Gronvall, G. K. (2017). Prevention of the development or use of biological weapons. Health Security, 15(1), 36-37. Web.
Johnson, K. Y., & Nolan, P. M. (2016). Biological weapons: Recognizing, understanding, and responding to the threat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
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