- May 8, 2020
Biological Weapons could Ebola be used as a biological weapon?
BiologicalWeapons: could Ebola be used as a biological weapon?
Biologicalweapons are among the various methods used by terrorism organizationsto execute attacks. Biological weapons involve the use of biologicalagents that have lethal effects on people. Biological weapons work bythe biological agents being released in an area, reproduce in aninfected host and then spread from a person or animal to another. Abioterrorism disease is characterized by their ability to inflictpublic fear, cause high mortality rate and requires specialpreparedness to protect the public. These characteristics make Ebolaa bioterrorism diseases and weapon. Ebola poses a major publicconcern in the contemporary society. Concerns have been raised aboutthe Islamic State, and other terrorist militant organizations areusing or planning to use Ebola as a bio-weapon in terrorist attacks(Cenciarelli,et al. 381-326).
Ebolaas a Biological Weapon
Thebioterrorism experts state that Ebola is a deadly and highlycontagious disease that could be used as a biological weapon forterrorists’ attacks. They indicate that terrorists can develop theEbola virus as a powder to create an Ebola bomb. The powdered viruscan be loaded into a bomb and explode it in areas that are highlypopulated causing a large number of deaths. Similarly, terroristorganizations can combine Ebola virus with other biological agents todevelop super pathogens that would be more effective and spread it tothe populations. The virus can also be used in the form of a spray tospread the disease (Maras& Miranda 20-23).
Forinstance, the recent terrorist event that took place in Nigeria,where a federal air marshal was stabbed with a syringe at the LagosAirport is an indication that terrorist groups can spread the Ebolavirus. However, it is not very effective because the person can seekimmediate medical attention and receive treatment (Pollack, para 10).Similarly, terrorist groups can spread the virus by infectingthemselves and spending time in confined public areas including thebus or airplane thereby spreading the virus to other people. Reportsfrom different sources suggest that in the 1980s, the Soviet Unionscientists spent billions of money for many years in attempts toweaponize Ebola as a biological weapon in secret laboratory (Pollack,para 12). Additionally, the use of biological agents as weapons wasused before in the attacks that occurred in 2001 in Washington and inNew York, where five people died after opening letters that werepacked with anthrax (Pollack, para 13). It is thus argued that sincethe creation of Ebola as a biological weapon was tried before, theterrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)may try to weaponize the Ebola virus. Therefore, it is argued thatgiven enough time, expertise, technology, money and appropriateclimatic conditions, Ebola as a biological agent and a deadly diseasecan easily be turned into and used as a biological weapon.
Thebioterrorist experts suggest that although it is possible for Ebolato be turned into a biological weapon, it is difficult and expensiveto create and that explains the reason why bio-weapons are rarelyused in terrorist attacks. Additionally, obtaining an Ebola virus ischallenging, and the process of developing the weapons is complex andmulti-staged, which makes is difficult to be used as biologicalweapons. The terrorist group must first obtain a live host, transportit to the laboratory and extract the virus. The virus is unstablewhen it is removed from the host thus making it unlikely to weaponizeit. Also, it is difficult to deploy Ebola effectively and in mostcases, using biological weapons in terrorist attacks do not alwaysresult in mass casualties thus cannot meet the goal of theterrorists` groups who always aim at causing massive destruction.Moreover, it `s hard to reproduce the Ebola virus in large quantitythat can be used in a large-scale terrorist attack. For Ebola tospread aerogenically, it requires culturing of large quantities ofthe virus, which is difficult to obtain from a host in order toextract more samples to meet the desired amount (Stewart12-25).
Thebioterrorist experts also argue that despite the high possibility ofEbola being used as a biological weapon, it is not an ideal vectorfor biological warfare. This is because Ebola has a slow reproductiverate thus slow to take effect. An infected person can take an averageof 8-10 days for symptoms to appear and for the virus to becontagious. The incubation period for the virus ranges from 2-21days. Therefore, this means that the Ebola virus can take a longertime to spread and the symptoms of Ebola virus can be easilyidentified before the virus becomes contagious thus can be containedeasily. In addition, Ebola virus requires highly specializedequipment and expertise to handle it effectively. However, terroristorganizations lack the needed expertise, technology and safetyequipment to handle the virus well. Thus, it is argued that the useof Ebola as a bio-weapon would be less attractive to terrorist groupsdue to its complexities (Palermo, para 8-11).
Moreover,the use of the virus in bombs could kill most of the viruses becausethey are sensitive to heat. Similarly, those injured in an Ebola bombcan be taken to hospital where they would be put under quarantine andtreated. The Ebola virus is also sensitive to light, bleach, andlow-humidity environments. Therefore, the use of Ebola as abio-weapon in these environments could kill the virus thusineffective. Furthermore, the spread of Ebola virus from one personto another requires direct contact with the infected person ortransfer of bodily fluids from an infected person. The transmissionof the body fluids can only occur through feeding on infected tissueslike bush meat, mucous membranes, and broken skin. The peopleidentified to have been infected with the virus are usuallyquarantined and treated thus minimizing the spread of the disease.Thus, the method of transmission makes Ebola less contagious and lessineffective biological weapon (Maras& Miranda 25-29).
Ebolacomprises of characteristics that classify it as a bioterroristdisease including its potentialtoinflict public fear, has high mortality rate and requires specialpreparedness to protect the public. It is argued that Ebola can beused as a biological weapon through making Ebola bombs, used in theform of spray, can combine Ebola virus with other biological agentsto develop super pathogens and attack populations. However, it isargued that Ebola is not an ideal biological agent for developingbiological weapons because it has several limitations. Theselimitations include, it is unstable and cannot survive outside thebody of the host because it is sensitive to heat, and specificclimatic conditions. The complexities involved in obtaining a hostand processing the virus makes Ebola less attractive to terroristgroups’ thus not potential agent to weaponize.
Cenciarelli,Orlando, et al. "Viral bioterrorism: learning the lesson ofEbola virus in West Africa 2013–2015." Virusresearch210 (2015): 318-326.
Maras,Marie-Helen, and Michelle D. Miranda. "The weaponization ofEbola: A new risk in the wake of an outbreak?." ComparativeStrategy(2016).
PalermoElizabeth, “Could Ebola be Turned into a Bio-Weapon? Possible, butNot so Easy,” CBS News, August 11, 2014.
PollackAndrew, “Stabbing with Syringe in Nigeria Raises Concerns of Ebolaas Weapon,” New York Times, September 10, 2014.
Stewart,Scott. "Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon." StratforGlobal Intelligence, October23 (2014).