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Plague flea the original WMD.pdf

Plague flea the original WMD.pdf

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Published by djealas
The historical use of insect vectors to spread disease.
The historical use of insect vectors to spread disease.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: djealas on Feb 10, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Plague Flea
The Original WMD
Since ancient times, people have died from the plague, specifically
yersinias pestis
, which travelled fromperson to person directly or from infected fleas, and moved quickly from ship to ship to locations aroundthe globe. Small outbreaks of plague continue to occur throughout the world today. Considering that jetstravel in hours in what used to involve months or years of travel by ship, it is surprising that the plaguehas not reappeared on a grand scale. Yet isolation, treatment, and worldwide vigilance seem to have keptit at bay. What would occur if a deliberate attempt to infect the population occurred?The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that, in a worst case scenario, if 50 kg of
Yersinias pestis
were released as an aerosol over a city of 5 million, pneumonic plague could occur in as many as 150000persons, 36000 of whom would be expected to die. The plague bacilli would remain viable as an aerosolfor 1 hour for a distance of up to 10 km. Significant numbers of city inhabitants might attempt to flee,further spreading the disease.Examining the plague in detail reveals much about its desired weapons characteristics. In AD 541, thefirst recorded plague pandemic began in Egypt and swept across Europe with population losses ofbetween 50% and 60% in North Africa, Europe, and central and southern Asia. The second plaguepandemic, also known as the Black Death
or Great Pestilence, began in 1346 and eventually killed 20 to 30million people in Europe, one third of the European population. Plague spread slowly and inexorablyfrom village to village by infected rats and humans. The pandemic lasted more than 130 years and hadmajor political, cultural, and religious ramifications. The third pandemic began in China in 1855, spreadto all inhabited continents, and ultimately killed more than 12 million people in India and China alone.For the megalomaniac, a plague is the perfect WMD.
Naturally Occurring Plague
As a prelude to human epidemics, rats frequently die in cycles and in large numbers, precipitating themovement of the flea population from its natural rat reservoir to humans. Several days after ingestinginfected blood, a flea
s stomach becomes blocked by the plague bacteria, which form clots, preventingfood from digesting. Being famished, the flea attempts to feed through multiple bites and regurgitatesinfected blood into its human victim, who then develops bubonic plague.Thus the infection cycle begins.Although most persons infected by this route develop bubonic plague, a small minority will developsepsis with no buboes, a form of plague called septicemic plague. Neither bubonic nor septicemic plaguespreads directly from person to person. A small percentage of patients with bubonic or septicemic plaguedevelop secondary pneumonic plague and can then spread the disease by respiratory droplets. Personscontracting the disease by this route develop pneumonic plague, the deadliest form.
 Types of Plague and Treatment
Pneumonic plagueLeast common (< 14% of all cases), but most severe form characterized by fulminant pneumoniaOverall mortality: 57%The form most likely to be seen in a bioterrorism setting, because it can dispersed as aerosolInfection control
droplet precautions, negative pressure room or transport unit, gown, gloves, N95mask.Bubonic plagueMost common form (75-97% of all cases)Characterized by painful lymphadenitis (buboes)Contracted through the bite of an infected flea or handling infected animalsOverall mortality: 15%This form is unlikely to occur in a bioterrorism settingInfection control
standard gown and gloves, N95 mask.Septicemic plagueLess common form (< 20% of all cases)Systemic infection (sepsis)Overall mortality: 22-50%Infection control
standard gown and gloves N95 mask.Treatment - Streptomycin, tetracycline, chloramphenicol, and gentamicin are highly effective, if begunearly. Plague pneumonia is almost always fatal if not treated within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Buboes caused by plague
Plague Following Occurrence of a Biological Weapon
The first indication of a clandestine terrorist attack with plague would most likely be a sudden outbreakof illness presenting as severe pneumonia and sepsis. It would likely start in an area where plague
doesn’t normally occur.
If there are only small numbers of cases, the possibility of them being plaguemay be at first overlooked, given the clinical similarity to other bacterial or viral pneumonias, and thatfew Western physicians have ever seen a case of pneumonic plague. However, the sudden appearance ofa large number of previously healthy patients with fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, bloodysputum, and death should alert even the dimmest bulb to the possibility of pneumonic plague.
 Weaponization By The Vector Effect
Deliberately spreading disease using fleas is known as the vector effect of biological warfare. While it wasnot uncommon during the Dark Ages for invading armies to catapult plague infected bodies over the citywalls of their enemies, later generations of bioweapons developers had more nefarious intent.Its modern application in warfare started in the 1930s with Japan. Germany, The U.S. and the SovietUnion also conducted their own investigations in this area. During World War II, Canada pioneered thevector effect for the Allies. Of the agent-vector combinations, the plague flea has the richest militaryheritage and is worth studying to understand its effect in biological warfare.

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