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CBRN Attacks: Biological

CBRN attacks stand for Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear attacks.

Let’s take a look at past CBRN attacks, the most common weapons, and how to survive. Today we are delving into the world of biological warfare.

Humans have a long history of biological warfare. It stretches back to the Middle Ages and even before then. From the use of poisoned arrows to flinging the bodies of those who died of the plague over castle walls. In the 1700s and the British colonisers of North America gifted linen deliberately infected with smallpox to Native Americans. By the turn of WW2 Britain had researched to weaponise anthrax, botulism, tularemia, and brucellosis. To this day the Scottish isle of Gruinard remains contaminated with anthrax from testing during WW2. Thankfully none of these biological weapons were used. After 9/11 in 2001 letters containing anthrax spores were sent to Democratic senators in the USA, killing 5 people and infecting 17 others.

That brings us to now which biologics are the UK government looking out for?

Anthrax is high on the list. Anthrax is a serious illness caused by spores of the bacillus anthracis bacterium. Anthrax can have different symptoms depending on how it has entered the body. Be it through the skin, gut, lungs, or injection, without treatment of antibiotics anthrax can quickly lead to sepsis, multiple organ failure, haemorrhagic meningitis, and then death. With speedy treatment 60% of those infected with anthrax recover.

Smallpox is on the UK’s watchlist. Currently, smallpox has been vaccinated out of existence apart from samples kept in labs. Should smallpox be released it would be disastrous. The UK stopped vaccinating against it in 1971. Before vaccination smallpox killed 30% of the time. The pus-filled blisters, fever, back pain, and headache eventually led to sepsis and then death. Surprisingly the plague is on the watchlist. As in Yersinia pestis, the black death that killed a third of Europe in the 1340s. You will be surprised to hear that in 2021 eight people died of the plague. There is a vaccine for the plague, but it is not widely distributed. Patients respond well to antibiotics. The plague continues to survive in Madagascar with occasional outbreaks in Mongolia, China, and Russia thanks to it being carried by marmots. Brucellosis, Q fever, Coronaviruses, Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Tularaemia, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and viral haemorrhagic fever all feature on the UK’s watchlist.

Surviving a biological attack. Is all about social distancing, good air circulation, wearing PPE, and good hygiene in hand washing. Quarantining is necessary. Continuous testing of the water quality and food industry to prevent contamination is essential. If Covid 19 has taught us anything we are woefully underprepared.

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