Weapon of Mass Destruction

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Terrorist acts are occurring at an alarming rate across the globe, instilling dread in nearly every state and nation. The development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by some states creates global concern due to the feared impact of their use on human health and the economy, both of which are crucial components of the sustainable development agenda. Thousands of lives and properties have been lost throughout history as a result of the employment of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapon agents.

The use of biological agents to cause human deaths is an important issue addressed in this work. Various pathogenic microbes have been weaponized. and specifically used in wars or in causing the death of individuals within certain target nations. This is so much in the 21st Century. To suppress the rise of the development and the use of these weapons, elite and concerned minds have thus come together in aid to enforce restrictive laws. Recorded in the history of the world is the US 2001 anthrax attack that caused a number of casualties that led collaborative state departmental response in a bid to curb future threat and attack (Linkov, Coles, Welle, Bates & Keisler, 2011). Central to this paper is to describe the historical use of anthrax as a biological weapon in attacking U.S in 2001 and the remediation strategies established in protection and curbing future incidences.


Anthrax is a serious bacterial illness exacerbated by Bacillus anthracis that can be inhalational (accounts for the majority of deaths), cutaneous (the most common form that occurs naturally) and gastrointestinal. Throughout the world, naturally occurring illness as a result of Bacillus anthracis is under control. It, however, remains a potent biological agent for terrorist use (Ramos, 1999).

2001 US Bioterrorist Attack

The bioterrorist practice of disseminating Bacillus anthracis through mails is extremely shocking. In the fall of 2001, United State experienced a significant bioterrorist attack in which letters containing Bacillus anthracis, bacteria that causes anthrax were mailed in the U.S portal system. Five states (Florida, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and the District of Colombia) were affected; lives lost, some injured and the economy affected through halting of the business activities in most of the affected regions. Letters laced with anthrax were mailed to the federal officials in Washington DC and the various new media offices in multiple locations (Imperiale & Casadevall, 2011).

The impact of this was far-reaching. Parts of U.S Congress and the Supreme Court (two branches of the federal government) were temporarily shut down; eighteen people contracted the disease (7 cutaneous, 11 inhalational) resulting into the death of five individuals; over 33,000 individuals received post-exposure prophylaxis; shutting down the American Media Inc. (AMI) building in Brentwood and Florida with the cleanup cost approximately estimating more than 24 million US dollars; US postal services cost directly as much as 3 billion dollars. It is this huge loss that massively prompted responses from the medical and public health sector, and the law enforcement community to develop remediation strategies.

Remediation Strategies

Law Enforcement

The challenges faced during the anthrax attack triggered the United States’ policy and decision makers to better legislate laws and action plans aimed at improving the nation’s biopreparedness (Zink, 2011). This significantly helped in better understanding the policy issues, technology and the threat needful for the nation to fully combat and respond to any future bioterrorism attack. Among the policies and legal issues highlighted were; how to ensure the indemnification of both the responders and contractors, steps needed to take in ensuring balanced investment portfolio, maximizing citizen privacy during medical biosurveillance and the appropriate way to better use the collected data, and the elements needed to preserve international trade during the attack crisis as well as policies on quarantine procedures (Hoffman, 2003).


Communication is a very significant tool for accomplishing a given task through the coordination of the various stakeholders involved. Learnt from the anthrax experience attack was failer to deliver the clear message to the public. Response by the public towards a bioterrorism attack can either help in mitigating casualties thereby hastening recovery, or can worsen the situation due to panic thereby resulting to further spread of the disease (Linkov, Coles, Welle, Bates & Keisler, 2011).

Media plays a significant role in relaying any message to the public. The media greatly shapes the, and can to an extent create in the absence of government information. In avoiding conflicting messages regarding the nature of a bioterrorist attack, there is the development of a well-coordinated media strategy in relaying information across multiple jurisdictions thereby greatly enhancing information flow as well as boosting the public confidence on any action taken by the government towards bioterrorist incidence.

Sharing information is vital in commanding, controlling, and coordinating the bioterrorist attack. The identified concern in the US anthrax attack was the information sharing among the federal law enforcement communities, the locals, the state, as well as facilitating communication among the public health community, medical sector, and the law enforcement officials (Ruggiero & Vos, 2014). A strategy in sharing of each group’s activities is paramount. Through the working together between the state and state health officials, for example, helps confirm the agent of bioterrorism. The expansion in cooperation of these stakeholder groups greatly increases the sharing of information necessary for criminal as well as for epidemiological investigation.


The use of the biological agent in bioterrorism is a health concern issue that significantly requires the participation of the medical professionals, researchers, and the public health officers. Following the anthrax attack, the nation’s laboratories contributed a lot in identifying the bioterrorist agent, confirming the anthrax cases and the case analysis in determining the origin and the attribution. The State laboratories that mounted effort during anthrax bioterrorist attack included;, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the university laboratories, Center for Disease Control, and the U.S Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratories. Bioremediation strategy in the development of complex multi-disciplinary research laboratories that can handle complex forensic samples required the forensic community engagement with the microbiologists and with professionals from other areas of discipline (Grundmann, 2014)s.

Training of the public health staffs in epidemiology and communicable disease control is a vital strategy aimed at mounting public awareness on the bioterrorist attack as well as in deploying mass drug treatment to the public. The delivery of mass medication and treatment helps in reaching a large number of casualties (Maki, 2003). The aftermath of a bioterrorist attack is always associated with psychological torture. In the remediation strategic plan, incorporation of the mental health care by the government helps in providing psychotherapy to the victims.

Private Sector Involvement

Severely affected by the 2001 US anthrax was the private sector. Businesses and building owners and managers hugely lost due to the abandonment of the city following the bioterrorist attack. Some businesses, for example, could not sustain a one-month shutdown for remediation completion (POLLARD, 2003). In the remediation strategy, it was deemed essential to involve representatives from private sectors (property owners and managers) in the planning process as well as post bioterrorism decontamination and remediation of their own premises.


Incidences of bioterrorism are threatening due to a large number of casualties and the significant loss caused on the affected nation. Understanding naturally disease outbreak and the intended terrorist attack is vital in the development of the policies for pre and post-planning process. The historical 2001 U.S anthrax attack was such an event that triggered very comprehensive and coordinated remediation strategies involving both the local, state and the federal government. Development of the remediation strategies by incorporating almost every sector such as health, media, legislative body, the private sector and the public is a clear manifestation of a united effort towards combating any future bioterrorist attack.


Grundmann, O. (2014). The current state of bioterrorist attack surveillance and preparedness in the US. Risk Management And Healthcare Policy, 177. http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/rmhp.s56047

Hoffman, R. (2003). Preparing for a Bioterrorist Attack: Legal and Administrative Strategies1. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 9(2), 241-245. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid0902.020538

Imperiale, M., & Casadevall, A. (2011). Bioterrorism: Lessons Learned Since the Anthrax Mailings. Mbio, 2(6), e00232-11-e00232-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mbio.00232-11

Linkov, I., Coles, J., Welle, P., Bates, M., & Keisler, J. (2011). Anthrax Cleanup Decisions: Statistical Confidence or Confident Response. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(22), 9471-9472. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es203479t

Maki, D. (2003). National Preparedness for Biological Warfare and Bioterrorism. Archives Of Ophthalmology, 121(5), 710. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archopht.121.5.710

POLLARD, W. (2003). Public Perceptions of Information Sources Concerning Bioterrorism Before and After Anthrax Attacks: An Analysis of National Survey Data. Journal Of Health Communication, 8, 93-103. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10810730305704

Ramos, J. (1999). Anthrax as a biological weapon: Medical and public health management. Annals Of Emergency Medicine, 34(4), 572. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0196-0644(99)80076-6

Zink, T. (2011). Anthrax Attacks: Lessons Learned On The 10th Anniversary of the Anthrax Attacks. Disaster Medicine And Public Health Preparedness, 5(03), 173-174. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/dmp.2011.71

May 02, 2023

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