Updated October 14, 2001
Unless one has a crystal ball, chances are we won't know of a bioattack. Realization will most likely come when people fall ill in a specific area - all exhibiting symptoms of anthrax, plague or some other disease.
Terrorists gave no warning, no notice, no demands prior to the day we will always remember - September 11, 2001. Why would they alter their M.O. now? Nothing has changed. They still want Jews and Americans dead - most specifically Americans.
Two recent events have ignited further fears. First, the (coincidental?) appearance of inhalation and dermal anthrax in Florida, New York and Nevada. It remains to be seen whether or not these cases are terrorist-linked.
In CNN's informal Quick Vote poll, by noon 70% felt the Florida anthrax heralded "a real cause for concern."
It is hard to conceive that US policy will bow to these twisted extremists so one has to consider whether or not they will try other measures.
While officials are quick to assure the public there is nothing to fear from bioterrorism, the October 10th, 2001 headlines said otherwise:
Water Supply Protection Considered
Experts Discuss U.S. Bioterrorism Preparedness
Doctors Dispute Biowarfare Preparedness
Britain Says Bin Laden Likely Has Germ Weapons
If a "drop" has already occurred, it makes purchasing a gas mask and/or protective overgarments moot. In order for them to be effective, one would have to live in this gear literally day and night. This is not living. Carrying on our lives as normally as possible IS.
Let's say this event transpires, what can you do while waiting for "The Cure" to show up? The following is decontamination information presented to you from http://www.nbc-med.org/ Their broadstroke Biowarfare decontamination is with more details below:
|Skin exposure from a suspected BW agent should be immediately treated by soap and water decontamination.
If available, wash contaminated areas with a 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution and allow a contact time of 10-15 minutes
FURTHER DECONTAMINATION (excerpted from Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook)
Contamination is the introduction of an infectious agent on a body surface, food or water, or other inanimate objects. Decontamination involves either disinfection or sterilization to reduce microorganisms to an acceptable level making them suitable for use. Disinfection is reducing of undesirable microbes to a level below that required for transmission. Sterilization is the killing of all organisms.
Decontamination methods have always played an important role in the control of infectious diseases. However, we are often unable use the most efficient means of rendering microbes harmless (e.g., toxic chemical sterilization), as these methods may injure people and damage materials which are to be decontaminated. BW agents can be decontaminated by mechanical, chemical and physical methods:
1) Mechanical decontamination involves measures to remove but not necessarily neutralize an agent. An example is the filtering of drinking water to remove certain waterborne pathogens (e.g. Dracunculus medinensis), or in a BW context, the use of an air filter to remove aerosolized anthrax spores, or water to wash agent from the skin.
2) Chemical decontamination renders BW agents harmless by the use of disinfectants that are usually in the form of a liquid, gas or aerosol. Some disinfectants are harmful to humans, animals, the environment, and materials.
3) Physical means (heat, radiation) are other methods that can be employed for decontamination of objects.
Dermal exposure to a suspected BW aerosol should be immediately treated by soap and water decontamination. Careful washing with soap and water removes nearly all of the agent from the skin surface. A quick swish won't do. Wash hands thoroughly - at least 30 seconds of intentional scrubbing.
Hypochlorite solution or other disinfectants are reserved for gross contamination (i.e. following the spill of solid or liquid agent from a munition directly onto the skin). In the absence of chemical or gross biological contamination, these will confer no additional benefit, may be caustic, and may predispose to colonization and resistant superinfection by reducing the normal skin flora. Grossly contaminated skin surfaces should be washed with a 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution, if available, with a contact time of 10 to 15 minutes.
5 gallons of water
5 gallons water
These solutions evaporate quickly at high temperatures so if they are made in advance, store in closed containers. Also, the chlorine solutions should be placed in distinctly marked containers because it is very difficult to tell the difference between the 5% chlorine solution and the 0.5% solution.
To mix a 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution, take one part Clorox and nine parts water (1:9) since standard stock Clorox is a 5.25% sodium hypochlorite solution. The solution is then applied with a cloth or swab. The solution should be made fresh daily with the pH in the alkaline range.
Chlorine solution must NOT be used in (1) open body cavity wounds, as it may lead to the formation of adhesions, or (2) brain and spinal cord injuries. However, this solution may be instilled into non-cavity wounds and then removed by suction to an appropriate disposal container. Within about 5 minutes, this contaminated solution will be neutralized and nonhazardous. Subsequent irrigation with saline or other surgical solutions should be performed. Prevent the chlorine solution from being sprayed into the eyes, as corneal opacities may result.
A shower is always preferable to a tab bath and particularly so in for decontamination. Think about it. Whatever washes off your body, you are now sitting in it! Were you just running around barefoot outside? Ugh! You don't want to think about it. This is particularly important for females at any time. If you miss the luxury of a bath, shower first, then relax in the bubble bath.
For decontamination, shower with hot, soapy water.
Don't forget this area! Shampoo several times and rinse thoroughly.
For decontamination of clothing, a 5% hypochlorite solution should be used. Ordinary sunlight works miracles - after the "all-clear" has been announced. UV rays will destroy many bacteria, viruses and fungi within 24 - 48 hours. Optimum conditions require sunshine, a slight breeze and low humidity. Bulky clothes and dense fabrics make UV penetration much more difficult and increases the time clothes need to be outside.
If you're not terribly fond of the clothing, burning is a good way to get rid of the contamination. If they can withstand household bleach, mix 1/2 cup Clorox to a gallon of water and soak them for at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry them in the clothes dryer on the hottest setting.
Burying clothes is not a good idea due to ground contamination. Anthrax spores, for instance, are able to survive in the soil 40 years.
For decontamination of equipment, use a 5% hypochlorite solution with contact time of 30 minutes prior to normal cleaning. This is corrosive to most metals and injurious to most fabrics, so rinse thoroughly and oil metal surfaces after completion.
USING HEAT AND RADIATION
BW agents can be rendered harmless through such physical means as heat and radiation. To render agents completely harmless, sterilize with dry heat for two hours at 160oC. If autoclaving with steam at 121oC and 1 atmosphere of overpressure (15 pounds per square inch), the time may be reduced to 20 minutes, depending on volume. Solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation has a disinfectant effect, often in combination with drying. This is effective in certain environmental conditions but hard to standardize for practical usage for decontamination purposes.
The health hazards posed by environmental contamination by biological agents differ from those posed by persistent or volatile chemical agents. Aerosolized particles in the 1-5 µm size range will remain suspended due to brownian motion; suspended BW agents would be eventually inactivated by solar ultraviolet light, desiccation, and oxidation. Little, if any, environmental residues would occur. Possible exceptions include residua near the dissemination line, or in the immediate area surrounding a point-source munition. BW agents deposited on the soil would be subject to degradation by environmental stressors, and competing soil microflora. Simulant studies at Dugway Proving Ground suggest that secondary reaerosolization would be difficult, and would probably not pose a human health hazard. Environmental decontamination of terrain is costly and difficult and should be avoided, if possible. If grossly contaminated terrain, streets, or roads must be passed, the use of dust-binding spray to minimize reaerosolization may be considered. If it is necessary to decontaminate these surfaces, chlorine-calcium or lye may be used. Otherwise, rely on the natural processes which, especially outdoors, leads to the decontamination of agent by drying and solar UV radiation. Rooms in fixed spaces are best decontaminated with gases or liquids in aerosol form (e.g., formaldehyde). This is usually combined with surface disinfectants to ensure complete decontamination.