What is our Greatest Threat, Bioterrorism, or Pandemic Flu?

Question

Which event is a greater threat to YOUR community – Bioterrorism or the Pandemic Influenza? If you chose Bioterrorism – be specific about what type and why. Then, defend your position by explaining in detail why one event is a greater threat over the other. For example, you may want to discuss the following: who and how many are at risk, what are the economic and social impacts, are there emotional and behavioral consequences, etc. Support your position by citing references that support your position. NOTE: When replying to your classmates’ postings, be respectful of each other’s positions – especially if they do not coincide with yours. I welcome spirited debate, and it’s okay to agree to disagree.

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What is Our Greatest Threat, Bioterrorism or Pandemic Flu?

Contents

Introduction. 2

Social-Economic Impact of Bioterrorism.. 2

Emotional and Behavioural Impact of Bioterrorism.. 2

Conclusion. 3

References. 4

Introduction

Bioterrorism is the act of using or threatening to use biological agents against an individual, a group of people, or a larger population for various purposes including intimidation and coercion. Both bioterrorism and pandemic influenza are caused by biological agents. An example of a bioterrorism agent is the Variola major which causes smallpox (Barry, 2005). Pathogens that cause Ebola can also be used as agents of bioterrorism.

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Bioterrorism is a greater threat than pandemic flu because the effects of the former would be more far-reaching due to the deliberate efforts involved. For example, a targeted Ebola attack would easily spread across the world if launched in all continents (Kagan, 2005). In contrast, pandemic influenza tends to cause damage only in the areas where there is an outbreak (Barry, 2005). For example, the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa led to thousands of deaths while affecting millions of people.

Social-Economic Impact of Bioterrorism

Some of the economic effects of bioterrorism include, fall in public revenue due to the increased expenditure in the health sector, decline in labour supply and productivity, increased reliance on foreign aid, and decreased GDP level in the affected countries. On the other hand, the social effects would include increased level of stigmatization in the affected area, social disorder, and rising mortality.

Emotional and Behavioural Impact of Bioterrorism

Moreover, the emotional effects would be catastrophic to entire communities. Cases of extreme fear, anxiety, and stress would increase considerably. Behaviourally, people are likely to go to extreme and irrational ends in terms of precautions leading to counterproductive outcomes such as overcrowded healthcare facilities and community-wide evacuations.

Conclusion

Bioterrorism poses a more serious threat than pandemic flu today due to the deliberate nature of the former. Pandemics rarely break out simultaneously across the world. In contrast, a bioterrorist attack may be launched in many countries, thus threatening the survival of humanity.

References

Barry, J. (2005). “The Story of Influenza: 1918 Revisited: Lessons and Suggestions for Further Inquiry”. In Knobler SL, Mack A, Mahmoud A, Lemon SM. The Threat of Pandemic Influenza: Are We Ready? Boston, MA: The National Academies Press.

Kagan, E. (2005). Update on Ebola Virus and Its Potential as a Bioterrorism Agent. Clinical Pulmonary Medicine, 12(2):76-83.

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