Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Britain, Mugabe, and BioWar

First some facts:

Now, it is ironic that the country being accused of instigating a cholera biowar attack on a third world backwater is itself suffering from the largest outbreak of norovirus ever seen, especially since the effects of the two are quite similar.
The UK population is 60.7 million, 2.8 million of them are sick with this bug with another 200K getting sick each week.

That is an awfully high number for this to be a natural outbreak.

When the word Biowar is used, most people think Ebola or Smallpox or Anthrax. Pathogens that have very high mortality rates. But there are a number of other kinds of biowar that could be waged. There are pathogens that spread so easily and so fast and are so debilitating that no army can fight effectively if they are infected, but do not kill a large number of people.

Noroviruses are just such a pathogen.

Noroviruses are usually epidemic in closed and semi-closed populations (prisons, hospitals, schools, cruise ships, etc.). Noroviruses can survive on surfaces such as door knobs and such for up to 12 hours and on contaminated carpeting and fabrics for 12 days or more. They are also somewhat resistant to alcohol and chlorine disinfectants.
This pathogen is uniquely suited to easy and quick widespread infection which is one of the first criteria for a biowar pathogen. It also does not impart lasting immunity and there is no vaccine for it either so virtually everyone is susceptible. It is also a pathogen that can be safely handled in a level 1 biohazard lab. Essentially all you need to handle it are latex gloves and a mask and face shield. Obtaining the amounts of the virus needed to weaponize it is fairly straightforward as well. All you have to do is find (or manufacture) some sick people and store all of the fecal matter and emesis created. Weaponization in an urban (vs a battlefield) environment would entail nothing more than going out in public and spraying water contaminated with the fecal matter on every surface you can, concentrating on door knobs, toilet seats, carpeting, chairs in waiting areas, etc. Therefore this is also an ideal pathogen for a low-tech improvised biowar attack.
Would such an attack kill large numbers of people? In a first world country, not likely, but it is sure to cause a major economic shutdown if enough workers are forced to stay home. It is an ideal pathogen for tactical battlefield use. In the field, troops cannot maintain the kind of cleanliness needed to prevent the outbreak and spread of such a disease, and it is awful hard to fight when you can't stop throwing up or crapping yourself. If an enemy were able to spray such an aerosol over a battlefield without the troops detecting it, that is exactly what would happen. For this reason USAMRIID in Ft. Detrick Maryland has looked at how to counter and prevent just such an attack scenario. I'm certain the doctors in Olive Drab up in Maryland are looking really hard at this outbreak.
And it was only two weeks ago that it was reported that the next big terrorist attack will be a biowar attack.
Is this a Biowar attack? I don't know, but it certainly seems suspect. It would seem that too many people are sick for this to be a natural outbreak. If so who is responsible? Mugabe is certainly a suspect since he has openly accused Britain of doing the same thing to his country (unlikely, but perception IS reality). But then again, it could be Al Queda as well.


Blogger Rorschach said...

An Anonymous poster commented that if this is biowar it is the same biowar every year. I inadvertently rejected the post. I apologize, I did not mean to do that.

While it is true that noroviruses come around every year about this time, the number of cases this year is staggering compared to normal. If a party wanted to wage biowar without it being detected, doing it during the normal seasonal peak would effectively camouflage the attack and make locating the focal centers much more difficult. The key to finding the culprit in a biowar attack is locating the focal centers and then trying to gather evidence that might point to a particular person or group. But if you have no idea where to look, that becomes problematic.

December 19, 2008 11:11 AM  

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