Troy State University
February 15, 2005
Throughout time, the quest to dominate another is limited only to the imagination of one man poised against the other. From feces smeared arrows to poisonous snakes, from infected blankets to super bugs created in a lab. Sometimes common flu symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coughing, and shortness of breath are the first signs of bioterrorism. For some reason, the more we search for answers to counter the effects of bioterrorism the worse is gets. The road to detection is not a narrow path, but a wide-open journey. Throughout history, warriors and terrorists have used a wide range of tactics and techniques to help defeat their enemy on and off the battlefield. These weapons of war have evolved from throwing rocks and sticks at each other to the unthinkable weapons of mass destruction called bioterrorism. You may ask yourself, what is bioterrorism? The Center for Disease Control defines bioterrorism as the intentional or threatened use of bacteria, fungi, or toxins from living organisms to produce death or disease in humans, animals, or plants and involves intimidation of nations or people to accomplish political or social ends. (CDC 2005) In ancient times, archers shot arrows at their enemies that were dipped in blood from dead and decomposing bodies, while others had the feces of animals smeared onto the tips to cause severe infection after entering the body. During sea battles, the great Hannibal would have venomous snakes thrown onto enemy ships causing enemy shipboard personnel to get bitten and die, further allowing Hannibal and his men to board the ships and gather the bounty. Numerous stories are in text about the dead bodies of contaminated victims that were catapulted over walls in an effort to regain or overtake whatever was inside those walls. Since no one wanted to touch the dead bodies that flew over the walls of a fort or city, the disease quickly spread to the people, ultimately, forcing them to surrender. Some historians believe this was the initial technique used to cause the plague epidemic that swept across Europe, killing over 25 million people. (Mayor 2003) Russian troops also thought the idea of using infected corpses was a good technique of war when they also used disease-ridden bodies of plague victims in order to take a city in Sweden. It has been said that the Spanish secretly infected French wine with blood from leprosy patients that made the troops too sick to fight. During the French and Indian War, the British thought the Indians could not be trusted and were loyal to the French. Because of this distrust, the British gave the Native Americans who were inside a French fort blankets previously used by smallpox victims in order to regain that strategic Fort. Allegations were made throughout the Civil War by both sides not only because horses and cattle were killed and left to rot in watering holes and wells causing sickness to both human and animal, but especially against the Confederate Army and Luke Blackburn, the future governor of Kentucky, for using this same bioterrorism technique as the British during the Civil War when he tried to infect clothing with smallpox and yellow fever he sold to unsuspecting Union troops. (Phillips, n.d.)
Over the years, with no real means of biological agent detection except to observe the typical signs and symptoms of a particular agent, townspeople and military commanders assumed that anyone showing any sign of a biological agent must be infected and had them either quarantined or burned to death in order to prevent the spread of the disease. The children's nursery rhyme "Ring around the Rosie" comes from the Bubonic Plague outbreak in Europe around 1347. The only means of detection was to observe the signs and symptoms of friends and family members who could no longer hide it from...
References: Center for Disease Control (CDC), Bioterrorism: An Overview. Retrieved February 12, 2005, from http://www.bt.cdc.gov/training/btresponse/pdf/bt.overview99.pdf
Phillips, M. B., (n. d.) Bioterrorism: A Brief History, Retrieved February 12, 2005 from www.dcmsonline.org/jax-edicine/2005journal/bioterrorism/bioterrorism_history.pdf
Mayor, A. (2003) Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, Scorpion Bombs. Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World, Woodstock, New York, The Overland Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
Harris, S. H. (2002) Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932 – 1945 and the American Cover-up, Great Britain, Routledge
Mauroni, A. (2003) Chemical and Biological Warfare, A Reference Handbook, (1st ed.) Library of Congress
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