24 Apr 2022


Mitigating Apprehension of an Impending Bioterrorist Attack

Format: APA

Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 1687

Pages: 7

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The only relief that comes with a predictable predicament is the level of preparedness waiting to confront the same. Terrorism has become inevitable that a geographic confinement with territorial integrity can’t claim to be immune from attacks. The purpose for this study is to make manifest weaknesses in our legal, administrative and policy systems that still make Americans apprehensive of an impending bioterrorist attack, despite the preparation alleged. The study is therefore aimed at demonstrating the faults in anticipation for the attacks vis-à-vis the dreaded repercussions that come with bioterrorist attacks.


By virtue of being the intentional use or release of biological agents with the view to killing other people based on political, religious or other ideological motives, bioterrorism has become the next unavoidable plague that is yet to confront the US territory once again since 1984. This study seeks to establish and ascertain the level of preparedness of the US to confront the unavoidable and mitigate the apprehension in the hearts of many people regarding the assurance of their safety. To that effect, the study therefore brings out the rectifications that the current policies are devoid of, after establishing on a reality check, the prevailing circumstances in and the impending consequences we anticipate.

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Background Problem regarding WMD

The problem affecting the US regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction is founded on the failure to amend her policies despite realization of the prevailing destruction underlying biological agents (Richardson, 2004). A liberal approach taken in the enactments such as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (1996) and the USA Patriot Act have still manifested demerits subject to the proportionality test. This happens such that a vulnerable system allows easy acquisition of cultures and fails to include biological agents such as salmonella typhi in the list of toxins and agents controlled. As a result, it does not take away the fear in the hearts of many Americans. Instead, such faults only make the United States even susceptible to another bioterrorist attack since 1984, as it is no longer a matter of being once bitten and twice shy. 

Despite the USA Patriot Act and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the country has still not achieved the level of certainty that should be present. This is especially in terms of ideal surveillance and laboratory diagnosis, stockpiling of preventive medications, a well-established Civilian Biodefense, ideal standard evaluation of threats and a well-founded Public Health plan – all of which the country needs to be prepared in the case of another bio-attack. Emergency response and follow-up for victims is also lacking as at least one-fifth of such individuals have suffered from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. 

It is from this perspective that this study is premised, such being with the view to establishing policies that would buttress the government departments and mechanisms of exploitation towards mitigating the harsh truth that many are confronted with to pursuant to curtailing the reoccurrence of another bioterrorist attack, if any. 

Repercussions of a Bioterrorism Attack

The mode of operation behind the execution of bioterrorist attacks speaks for itself through the consequences. The first and apparent impact is the death of innocent people who become victims of the intended attack on the public using a bio agent (Mahoney, 2005). The 1984 attack in Oregon was a glimpse of what a bioterrorist attack would be like. Such is equivalent to being confronted with a weapon that is prone to kill and result to significant harm to a large number of human beings. 

Take, for instance, the release of variola major – the biological agent that causes small pox. It could turn out to be the most dangerous if let out to the masses by virtue of being contagious hence spreading fast. Its fatal nature would see to it that its victims cease existence even before measures are deployed to control it. It is therefore certainly the fact that bioterrorist attacks are sufficient threat to the eradication of an entire nation unless its foreseen reception is well catered for in buttressed preparations in laws and policies besides initiatives deployed to prevent the same. 

Future Implications of another Attack

The first real implications that the US can relate to would be attributed to the purpose behind the 1984 attack in Oregon, meant to fetter the locals from being able to exercise their democratic right to vote save for the homeless who were bussed into the region by the Rajneeshees (Mahoney, 2005). Despite failure to record any deaths springing from the attack, the modern world today would do well to be prepared, especially due to the prevailing circumstances. It would be unwise not to anticipate the danger posed by, among others, the Soviet germ weapons programs, the Japanese nerve gas attacks and Iraqi stockpiles when they find their way in the wrong hands (Meselson, Guillemin, & Hugh-Jones, 2002). 

For instance, subject to categorization of the biological agents based on the threats they pose to public health, a release of the Category A agents by virtue of being ‘potential for adverse public health impact with mass casualties’, would render the country devoid of human resource to run the economy let alone those in leadership. Another attack would open up the US to vulnerability to other bioterrorist attacks or exploitation by any sovereignty that may turn hostile against it. It would only result into deteriorated public health, which would be integral to a declined economic power and prowess. 


The relationship between Public Health and Law Enforcement is marred with voids that need to be filled. This is attributed to the procedures involved in assumption of different interrelated roles that the two play pursuant to detecting and responding to bioterrorist attacks or threat if any. From the 1984 bioterrorist attack in Oregon, the level of surveillance, evaluation and control depicted by the Public Health and Centre for Disease control was quite plausible in managing the attack then (Mahoney, 2005). The collaboration between the departments was quite commendable ranging from passive surveillance to locate patients with symptoms, press releases to create awareness inspection of restaurants among other efforts that contributed towards mitigating the impact of the 1984 ordeal. 

However, it is certainly the fact that, subject to the prevailing sophistication in powers enjoying dominance over Weapons of Mass Destruction, those efforts then would not be sufficient today to confront a neo-attack. The delay in realization that the outbreak in 1984 was as intentional took quite long to the extent that if the same happened today, even a delay with a fraction of a second would render no chance for recovery or reorganization and assumption of our roles in taking preventive precautionary measures. The prevailing modus operandi is that the initiation of an investigation requires merit to a particular threshold; this signifies delay before any measures can be taken to combat an attack. As such it would be fait accompli. In addition, in order to commence an epidemiological investigation, certain conditions should be met including evidence of an outbreak and manifest severity of the disease. 

In addition, it is only when Public health officials suspect that the outbreak is intentional, that they engage the Law Enforcement. This is an absurdity to the fact that in the modern world, suppose an attack is waged upon the country, it would be too little too late to examine the possibility of an outbreak being intentional before resorting to security and curative measures to the prevailing ordeal then. It is therefore certainly the fact that the development and interrelationship of this system is marred with procedural technicalities that may warrant delay in case of reaction into a situation that warrants expeditious response in order to prevent or to mitigate the impending greater extents of damage.

Recommendations on Improvement of Current Preparedness

Preparation to impending bioterrorist attacks is should be as crucial as it should involve implementation of a system and mechanism that promises to act with expediency. The interrelationship between the Public Health and Law Enforcement should manifest minimal delay. The current mode of operation involves a lot of consideration to constraining procedural technicalities that do not fetter reaction to such an emergency. The suggestions and recommendations therefore are attributed to innovation of the prevailing system to accommodate measures that are more expeditious; this for instance is attributed to the possibilities of attacks involving Category A biological culture that demands the ‘highest priority of preparedness’ and expeditious response. They among others include;

Improving awareness – this is aimed at ensuring that civilians are well informed as to the impending predicament in relation to bioterrorist attacks, the level of preparedness and anticipated response to an occurrence of the same.

Enhancing surveillance – this would be the best preventive measure resorted to as it would enable timely identification of patients exhibiting early signs of fatal diseases before they transmit to others.

Enhancing laboratory diagnostic capabilities – this includes investment in laboratory facilities and institutions that can be used to effectively diagnose diseases within timely periods. 

Safe, healthy and amicable emergency response for victims – this is pursuant to ensuring that response teams involved in rescuing victims are as well catered for and protected from post-traumatic effects that are integral to the rescue of victims.

Reduction in the threshold and conditions for commencement of an investigation – this is pursuant to mitigating the procedural constraints that fetter the expeditious initiation of investigations into establishment of whether the prevailing outbreak is intentional or as a result of natural courses. 

Expedite engagement of the Law Enforcement by Public health upon establishment of intentional outbreak – this involves flexing the procedural constraints that are involved in transition of roles from the public health into the law enforcement. 

Amendment of the USA Patriot Act to include more endangered biological agents in the list of toxins and agents highly controlled. 

Amendment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996 to constrain the prevailing ease of access to biological culture. 

It is therefore certainly the fact that since survival of the first bioterrorist attack, the US has not been able to effectively establish or amend the prevailing mechanisms, departments and instruments of response to modern day bioterrorist attack. It is also quite clear that the mechanisms exploited before might not be as effective today as they were in 1984 to stop the salmonella outbreak. It therefore calls for realignment of the system and mechanisms involved pursuant to mitigating the fear of being victim to modern day bioterrorism. To this extent, such recommendations such as relieving the system of procedural technicalities that may seem to fetter effective response to bioterrorism be relaxed to accommodate the intensity of today’s sophisticated humanitarian era. 


Mahoney, A. (2005). Preventing the Next Attack: An Examination of Policy Issues Brought to Light by the Rajneesh Bioterrorist Attack in Oregon in 1984. Retrieved from Public Policy in Global Health and Medical Practice Paper: http://policy-csimpp.gmu.edu/academics/studentpapers/fall2005/fall05_04. pdf

Meselson, M., Guillemin, J., & Hugh-Jones, M. (2002). Public health assessment of potential biological terrorism agents. Emerging infectious diseases, 8(2) , 225. 

Richardson, M. (2004). A time bomb for global trade: maritime-related terrorism in an age of weapons of mass destruction. Maritime Studies, 2004(134) , 1-8. 

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