Biological warfare

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The use of bacteria, virus or other disease-causing organism as a weapon of war. Also known as germ warfare.

Biological warfare is believed to have been practised in the Middle Ages, often by flinging victims of plague over castle walls using catapaults.

Use of such weapons was banned in international law by the Geneva convention of 1925. Despite this, considerable research on the topic was performed by the United States, the Soviet Union, and probably other major nations throughout the Cold War era, though it is generally believed such weapons were never used.

The Washington Post reported on December 13, 2001 that the United States army has been developing weapons-grade anthrax spores at a biological and chemical weapons facility in Utah at least since 1992.

Diseases likely to be considered for use as biological weapons include anthrax, plague, cholera and smallpox because of their lethality (if delivered efficiently), and robustness making delivery feasible.

A successful biowarfare attack could theoretically result in thousands, possibly even millions of deaths (though such a catastrophic attack would be difficult to mount with currently-known diseases), and could result in severe disruptions to societies and economies.

2001 anthrax attack

Numerous cases of anthrax broke out in the United States in the fall of 2001, caused deliberately. They may well be the first use of biological warfare since the signing of the convention, and possibly the first act of bioterrorism.

In the last Just a few things I learned from surfing the net recently...

The main delivery method for biological weapons is aerosol (ie: droplets). For chemical weapons, it's vapour (much smaller).

Typical chemical warfare agents: sarin, tabun, vx, soman, cyanide, mustard gas

Typical biological warfare agents: anthrax, staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB), Bubonic/Pnuemonic Plague, Cholera

An aerosol droplet may contain several bacteria (less than a micron) or many virii (1/100th micron)

Anthrax spores (rods) are 6-7 microns in size, which means any HEPA or P100 filter will trap them.

Radiological particulate will also be stopped by a HEPA or P100 filter.

Chemical vapours can be trapped by activated-charcoal filters, but the filter will fill up after about half an hour (depending on unit). Change filter when it gets hard to breathe.

Surgical masks can filter <1/10th micron

In the same way as there's SCUBA for breathing underwater, there are SCBA respirators for breathing pure air above ground.

Ozone neutralizes bological contaminants. Also UV light.

Pyridostigmine is a pre-treatment to most nerve gases, and atropine is the standard antidote (but it causes side effects when you're not first poisoned.)

Anthrax antibiotics = Penicillin, Erethromyacin, Vancromyacin, vancomycin, erythromycin

"Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed" (AVA) immunisation takes 18 months to complete, and then requires annual boosters. Developed by BioPort / Lansing.

A lethal dose of anthrax results from inhaling 10,000-20,000 spores.

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Nerve Agents

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Potomac Institute Course Notes

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The Terrorist Threat, Parts I, II & III

US Army Treatment Summary Sheet

WHO: Health Aspects of Biological and Chemical Weapons

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...Well, hope that saved someone else some surfing time!