Bio-Preparedness : Responding to the Threat of Biological Weapons

07-04-2009

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons – also often termed ‘unconventional’ weapons or ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – are a class of weapons that have the potential to kill thousands of people and disrupt vital financial, communications, and transportation systems. Yet, to date no such ‘superterrorism’ incidents have taken place. This report focuses on biological weapons because these are the weapons often considered to have the greatest potential to kill in the most massive numbers and the highest likelihood of being used. It considers the threat they pose by illustrating the technical challenges of weaponising and disseminating a disease-causing biological agent, and it describes the few terrorist attempts there have been to use biological weapons against humans. The report also notes that, because there have been so few historical cases of terrorist use, fictitious scenarios have often been adopted as a means by which to assess the threat of bioterrorism, to explore the potential consequences of an attack, and to develop appropriate response mechanisms.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons – also often termed ‘unconventional’ weapons or ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – are a class of weapons that have the potential to kill thousands of people and disrupt vital financial, communications, and transportation systems. Yet, to date no such ‘superterrorism’ incidents have taken place. This report focuses on biological weapons because these are the weapons often considered to have the greatest potential to kill in the most massive numbers and the highest likelihood of being used. It considers the threat they pose by illustrating the technical challenges of weaponising and disseminating a disease-causing biological agent, and it describes the few terrorist attempts there have been to use biological weapons against humans. The report also notes that, because there have been so few historical cases of terrorist use, fictitious scenarios have often been adopted as a means by which to assess the threat of bioterrorism, to explore the potential consequences of an attack, and to develop appropriate response mechanisms.

Externí autor

Filippa Lentzos (BIOS Centre, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom)