Don't Panic! (Anthrax as Disinformation)

The friendliest place on the web for anyone that follows U2.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


The Fly
Aug 25, 2000
Athens GR
Biological Weapons: Anthrax As Disinformation

A Biologist's Perspective

Propaganda on biological weapons including anthrax originates in the dark
cellars of government for the purpose of swaying the public to support increased
police powers. A terrorist threat is hyped or contrived, while military research on contagious diseases is concealed.

Disinformation in Media.

An example of the disinformation is an article in a news weekly which listed each of the supposed terrorist weapons and the cost of producing them. For $10-20,000, terrorists could supposedly kill hundreds of
thousands of persons with botulism toxin, anthrax, nerve gas, etc. "60 Minutes" had an 'expert' who said biological weapons could be produced in someone's back yard in a five gallon bucket. He said anthrax spores released from a boat on the Hudson River could kill four hundred thousand persons in New York City.

Anthrax is Trivial.

Here's the truth of the matter. Anthrax will never be used successfully as a terrorist weapon, and probably never as a military weapon. It has to be converted to spores suspended in the air, which is technically very difficult; and the lethality is nowhere near the terror that it is made out to be. It is not 100% lethal as often claimed. Wool sorters inhale anthrax spores in small quantities continually (150-700 per hour), and only if they get a large dose does an infection get started. It is not contagious.

Only US and Russia can Weaponize it.

To use anthrax as a weapon, it must be converted to a powder which can be
inhaled. Only the US and Russian militaries have succeeded in doing that. Even Iraq uses anthrax in liquid form, which is totally ineffective.

Humans are Seldom Affected.

Anthrax is a livestock pathogen. There are anthrax spores in the ground in rural areas, because they survive for about twenty years. They normally have no effect upon humans, because a few anthrax spores cannot create an
infection, and they do not come up from the ground in large quantities.

Cellular Limitations.

Anthrax is what's called a "gram positive" bacterium. This means it has the type of cell walls which are harmless, unlike the cell walls of "gram negative" bacteria, which attack tissue. Therefore, anthrax can only attack tissue by producing a special toxin which it excretes. One cell or spore
does not produce enough toxin to start an infection.

Studies have apparently determined that, typically, ten thousand anthrax spores must be inhaled to start an infection. That number might be someone's guess, but it is in line with the biology of the disease. It is the number which the military uses, and only the military has significantly
researched such questions. It uses gas chambers for animal tests.

Anthrax normally attacks the lungs, because it must lodge in vulnerable tissue. It can invade through other routes such as cuts or undercooked meat, but it only does so under third world conditions, and those routes
are not relevant to biowarfare.

Livestock eat from the ground, so they have their faces near the ground where the spores are, and they can inhale ten thousand spores. How does anyone get ten thousand spores into the lungs of humans?

Technical Obstacles to Weaponizing.

The first requirement would be to aerosolize the spores. The spores would have to be converted to a dry powder, because a liquid would create globs which would fall to the ground rather than staying suspended in the air.

To create a powder, the spores would first have to be washed several times in an array of very large and expensive centrifuges. Then a drying apparatus would have to be used; and it would require spraying a mist into a vacuum, which is how powders are created from liquids. Otherwise, everything globs up into hard rocks.

How do workers clean the equipment without getting spores everywhere? A likely procedure would be to enclose the equipment in a pressure chamber and steam sterilize it for several days. Such an operation costs hundreds of millions of dollars, considering related facilities and development.
Only countries do that, not radical groups, and not in five gallon buckets.

It won't stay in the Air.

Even in powder form, the spores would fall to the ground rapidly in the absence of wind. Anthrax is not adapted for airborne dissemination. It needs to stay on the ground until inhaled by livestock. So it would not stay in the air like mold spores but would fall out easily, about like
flour. In the presence of wind, the spores would be carried away rapidly
and would not stay in one place long enough for anyone to get more than a few inhaled.

Once the spores were on the ground, they would not affect humans significantly, because they would not come up from the ground in large enough quantities.

Foggers are Propaganda.

There is some talk about using liquids with fogging devices for dispersion of biological agents such as anthrax. It's not realistic. First, there is no mention of the purity that would be required to prevent globbing and plugging of nozzles. At least, a lot of expensive centrifuging would be required to remove debris.

Then agricultural spraying demonstrates that a mist drops rapidly to the ground. It does that because air can only hold a small amount of water, which causes sprays to precipitate.

Another problem is that spores would rapidly settle to the bottom of a liquid and form a gum due to sticky cell debris and their tendency to clump.

A chemical mist is different, because chemicals vaporize, while cells do
not. Cells in a mist would clump together as the liquid vaporizes. To create free spores would require very clean material, high dilution, ultra fine mist and a vacuum for rapid evaporation. Foggers can't do the same thing.

For these reasons, anthrax would be difficult to use; and it could hardly
kill more than a few hundred persons under the most ideal conditions, not the hundreds of thousands which are claimed. On top of that, antibiotics are effective for it during the early stage of the illness. It is not contagious for humans.

Glib Journalism is Unrealistic.

Innumerable journalists have been insisting that anthrax can be produced in a simple laboratory with little expertise. On the contrary, no countries but the U.S. and Russia can convert anthrax to a usable weapon. Iraq cannot.

Consider what the journalists fail to recognize. Growing a large quantity
of anthrax would result in a fermenter full of slop which is extremely slimy and viscous with large amounts of debris and metabolic products mixed with the nutrient medium. That slop has to be washed and converted to a
medium which will induce spores to form. Much research and knowledge would
be required to get a reasonable yield of spores. Then the cells would have
to be fragmented with something like a blender to get the spores out of the
cells. Then much differential centrifugation would be required to separate
the spores from the debris. Then spray drying of spores in a vacuum would
be required.

Accomplishing all of that would require the efforts several Ph.Ds. and much
developmental type research in addition to expensive equipment and a very large building. It isn't a matter of growing something in a kettle and pouring it into a rocket, as journalists and weapons inspectors seem to be assuming.

Grinding is Another Absurdity.

The latest contrivance is that terrorists might weaponize anthrax by drying
a slurry and grinding it to particles 1-5 microns in size. (The bacteria are 1 by 3 microns.)

The first problem is that the gunk would dry like glue; and after grinding, it would still be glue. Even if it were washed first, the bacteria would be sticky and would dry like glue.

The second problem is that bacteria do not tolerate grinding. They are as fragile as egg shells. Grinding is how they are broken apart for biochemical tests. Even if only 1% were broken, the result would be a
sticky gum, not a powder; and more like 99% would be broken before getting
5 micron particles.

Journalists keep mentioning how many anthrax spores can be put onto the head of a pin. It's not a question of how many can be put onto the head of a pin but how many can be put into someone's lungs.

Planes cannot Dust a City.

A scenario which is often mentioned is that someone might use a plane to dust a large city with anthrax during the night. It's unrealistic. First, no one in buildings would be harmed by anthrax. The few spores that entered buildings would settle on surfaces, and few would enter the air, and even fewer would be inhaled. At most, someone might inhale a few dozen spores
per hour. That's not the ten thousand that are needed.

Secondly, anthrax spores would not diffuse uniformly through the air like a
gas. They will either drop too fast or blow away. A few dozen persons might
be killed, but that's not the terror that is being hyped in the media. And more than anything, nobody is producing the spores in powder form but the U.S. and Russia.

Journalists seem to assume that an anthrax cell anywhere will kill someone someplace. Putting words alongside each other on a page is not the same thing as getting cells into humans on the ground. There are millions of
square miles of space on the ground which do not show up with the words.

Iraq did not Weaponize Anthrax.

Saddam Hussein is said to have produced anthrax. If so, the reason is because it is stable and easy to handle, not because it is effective when used. Iraq is unsophisticated to a point of ineptness in its approach to
biological weapons.

It is said that Iraq uses anthrax in liquid form and puts it in missiles in
liquid form. In liquid form, anthrax is almost as safe as cotton candy. Therefore, Iraq poses no anthrax threat.

In fact, military and UN inspectors only found two Iraqi warheads with anthrax in them (in liquid form). If Iraq had anthrax in an effective form, it would have had it in hundreds of warheads, as they did with nerve gas. So Iraq knew its anthrax was useless.

For about a billion dollars, Iraq could probably get enough experts together to develop anthrax as a weapon. But the reason why it doesn't is that researchers already know that anthrax would be next to worthless after it was developed.

The Whole Concept is Flawed.

Biological warfare is a flawed concept. The only route usually considered is airborne, because bombs and missiles create the delivery system. There is no disease in existence which is propagated in that manner. Even the airborne diseases require close contact with the source. The reason is
because wind disperses the agents too thinly, and gravity brings them down
too rapidly. Increasing the quantities massively will get a few persons,
but only a few.

And then, very few of the diseases which are mentioned as biowarfare agents
are suitable for airborne dissemination. Brucellosis is not. It is disseminated through body fluids. Plague is not. It is carried by insects from the blood of one animal to another. The insects do not pick it up from the ground.

Motives Tailor the Truth at every Level.

Biowarfare is promoted through a combination of ignorance and propaganda. The researchers, who should know better and often do, are getting paid to produce the agents, so they do not want to admit the futility of it. The nonresearchers cannot realistically evaluate the claims, and they have propaganda motives. They want to militarize society, and scare tactics go a
long way in that direction.

The only way biological warfare agents can be used in a significant manner to create disease is to inject them into the victims. If they are then contagious, they go a lot farther. The U.S. military has been focusing on contagious diseases. Since the water runs downhill in that direction, the
agents are or will be used in that manner. With the motives for population
control which the military has acquired, it can be expected to use its bio
agents in that manner.

The point here is not that large countries cannot make a lot of persons
miserable with biological weapons. It's that the small countries and
terrorists cannot do so on their own; and it cannot be done on a large
scale and in some magical way as described in the media.
Anthrax is not the only biological weapon. And how do we know that after the fall of the Soviet Union, some of the "Old Guard" or that elusive "Russian mafia" didn't sell some of the "weaponized" anthrax powder to terrorists or Saint Saddam Hussein?

This article is interesting, though, in that it could have been written by a right wing civil libertarian OR a leftist rebel!

It appears something happened in Boca Raton, Florida. I guess the theory about that incident will be that President Bush got his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, to go and spread some powdered anthrax down there just to fake an attack and illustrate the threat of it.

Personally, I don't think we are at a huge risk of it right now.

The author's agenda (i.e., to calm people's fears of biological warfare) is admirable, and although I feel he vilifies the media and takes Saddam Hussein too lightly, he makes some of valid points. However, I think there are two important points he fails to address

1. The psychological side of bioterrorism. The primary goal of terrorists is not to kill as many people as possible but to spread fear and alarm. When it comes to anthrax, even the word itself -- anthrax! -- sounds scary. The bacteria that's currently getting all the press might not be as lethal as people believe, but I'd like to see the author convince the family of the dude who just died -- or the three other people who came down with it, or anyone else in the world -- of that fact. If the threat of an anthrax attack is so completely improbable, then why are the American and Russian governments holding on to their stockpiles? Hmm. Maybe it's not all psychological...

2. The real threat of diseases other than anthrax, brucellosis, and the plague. Notice how the author mentions botulism only once and completely ignores diseases like yellow fever and smallpox? I don't know much about the first two, but the third one is a killer for which our country is thoroughly unprepared. What about a genetically engineered virus? Third-world dictators might not possess the immediate means to conjure such an organism, but I don't doubt that such weapons of mass destruction already exist -- and are available for theft in the Western hemisphere and to the highest bidder in the Eastern.

Smallpox: Bioterror's suicide bomb
By Alan Boyle, MSNBC

Oct. 10 -- Even as health authorities ramp up to deal with the potential
threat posed by anthrax, an even bigger effort is focusing on what many
consider the top bioterror peril: Smallpox.

Smallpox and anthrax lead the list of potential biological weapons that
could devastate civilian populations, along with plague, botulism, and
hemorrhagic fever (Scott's Note: I think this last disease is associated
with the Ebola virus...). But there are huge differences in the character of
the two threats.

Unlike anthrax -- which struck with deadly effect in Florida just this month
-- the human smallpox virus was virtually eradicated in the late 1970s. But
if smallpox were ever to make a comeback, it would be far more difficult to

"It's a less likely threat than anthrax, but potentially more catastrophic,
because it's contagious," said Dr. Jonathan Tucker, author of a book on
smallpox titled "Scourge" and director of the Chemical and Biological
Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International

Smallpox was once a worldwide scourge that spread through coughing,
sneezing, or physical contact -- even by handling the bed linens of the
afflicted. In the course of 15 to 30 days, sufferers developed pus-filled
boils, and 30 percent of those infected died from the disease.

Today, thanks to a global vaccination effort, the virus' domain has been
contained to tightly controlled laboratories in Russia and the United

That should have been the happy ending to a centuries-old tale of woe. But
U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russians, Iraqis, and North Koreans
have held onto undisclosed stores of smallpox for weapons purposes. Defector
Ken Alibek has acknowledged that the Soviets built up large stockpiles of
smallpox in the 1980s for use in bioweapons, and terrorism experts worry
that virus samples could somehow find their way into terrorist hands.

Low-tech weapon

Samuel Watson, co-director of the BioMedical Security Institute at the
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, was reluctant to
speculate on the potential for a smallpox attack. But he said the Florida
anthrax case could have an effect on the debate.

"If this thing in Florida with the anthrax turns out to be a strain that the
Soviets had, or if it turns out to be a strain that the Iraqis had, or Iran
or North Korea, or if we had it only in a (Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention) lab -- if that turns out to be the case, then I think we need to
be worried about smallpox," he said.

A smallpox attack wouldn't require the highly technical dispersal mechanisms
that terrorists need to spark a widespread anthrax outbreak, said Dr.
Raymond Zilinskas, deputy director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons
Nonproliferation Program.

"With smallpox, you don't need any of that, you just need infected people...
the biological equivalent of a suicide bomber," he said.

More than two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, a U.S. group working on
bioweapons said the deliberate reintroduction of smallpox "would be an
international crime of unprecedented proportions." But the experts had to
admit that such a nightmare scenario "is now regarded as a possibility."

Making more vaccinne

For that reason, the CDC is once again building up the nation's long-dormant
stocks of smallpox vaccine -- a store that currently could be used to
vaccinate 7.5 million to 15.4 million people.

Last year, the CDC put in a $343 million order with a British company called
Acambis for 40 million doses of a new smallpox vaccine, to be produced at a
facility in Cambridge, Mass., by 2004. In the wake of last month's attacks,
the timetable was accelerated so that those doses would be available by the
end of next year -- even though the vaccine would still lack the Food and
Drug Administration's full approval.

"It could only be administered with informed consent," Tucker explained. The
vaccine would have to go through years of testing before it could be
administered routinely.

In the meantime, researchers at four medical centers -- at Baylor College,
the University of Rochester, St. Louis University, and the University of
Maryland -- are investigating whether the existing vaccine would work even
if it were diluted fivefold or tenfold. That would stretch out the nation's
supply to serve 75 million people or more.

Tucker said the results so far were encouraging, but even 75 million doses
were "still probably not enough for a worst-case attack."

Other researchers are trying to develop anti-viral drugs to stop a case of
smallpox in its tracks, but it will take years to turn that research into
safe medications.

Why aren't more doses of the vaccine available today? For one thing, the
current vaccine carries a slight risk of side effects -- with a roughly
1-in-a-million chance of death. Also, since the disease was eradicated,
health officials didn't see a need to continue with routine vaccinations.
The current stocks were considered sufficient to deal with an isolated

"If there's an outbreak of smallpox in, say, Los Angeles, public health
officials would get in there right away and set up a quarantine. ... They
would vaccinate the hell out of everybody in that area who had possibly been
exposed," Zilinskas said.

Even in the wake of the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, Zilinskas found it hard to believe that anyone would want to
unleash smallpox on the world again.

"Even though (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein is ruthless, I don't think he is
completely reckless," he said. "You'd have to be reckless, because if you
have these things you must know that everyone is vulnerable. ... The
pandemic would spread to other parts of the world, including Iraq, and
they're just as vulnerable as anyone else in the world." (Scott's Note: Not
if they're immunized...)
The mian source of danger of contamination I see the disinformation, we have to be carefull, and we cannot just call left wing or something to an information we don't like, in that case any information shown in any USA network could be considered as Pro-American, and that would take off any credibility of it, wich I don't think is the case in most.

Please...don't make me say please, champagne and ice cream, it's not what I want, it's what I need.
As I stated in my reply, rafmed, this could have been written by a left-winger OR a right-winger! Believe it or not, I am neither.

Top Bottom