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WMD TerrorismScience and Policy Choices$
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Stephen M. Maurer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780262012980

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262012980.001.0001

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The New Bioweapons: Infectious and Engineered Diseases

The New Bioweapons: Infectious and Engineered Diseases

Chapter:
(p.111) 4 The New Bioweapons: Infectious and Engineered Diseases
Source:
WMD Terrorism
Author(s):

George W. Rutherford

Stephen M. Maurer

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262012980.003.0004

This chapter examines how terrorists could potentially use contagious diseases and/or genetic engineering to create WMD. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 4.1 explores the reasons why twentieth-century state programs usually avoided contagious weapons, asks whether these constraints would similarly apply to terrorists, and introduces the three most plausible naturally occurring weapons candidates — smallpox, pneumonic plague, and hemorrhagic fevers. Section 4.2 reviews the complex biological and social factors that determine how contagious disease outbreaks spread. Section 4.3 reviews the various public health strategies that are available to counter outbreaks. Section 4.4 explains how epidemiologists use formal mathematical models to predict epidemics and examines the accuracy of such models. Section 4.5 reviews recent smallpox models. Section 4.6 looks at how genetic engineering could be used to modify existing pathogens or even create new ones, stressing the hurdles that would have to be overcome to create a predictable, useful weapon. Section 4.7 looks at the mirror-image question of how advances in biology could facilitate defense. Finally, Section 4.8 presents a brief conclusion.

Keywords:   WMD, biological weapons, terrorists, contagious disease, smallpox, pneumonic plague, hemorrhagic fevers, outbreak, public health policy, genetic engineering

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