The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a smallpox drug. So is the next biological attack coming?
One thing I have learned after being involved in alternative journalism for all these years is that coincidences often lead toward some concrete event. Recently, some coincidences I have noticed have been related to biological attacks.
It’s always rather subtle but there are definitely patterns that can sometimes lead up to large, horrifying events. Now, the good news is that this is not always the case. Sometimes, there are genuinely unrelated events that mean absolutely nothing. But, I still believe it’s important to pay attention, don’t you?
It’s important to note that biological attacks are nothing new.
- In 2001, the anthrax attacks through the U.S. mail infected 11 people with inhalational anthrax, of which five died. An additional 11 people were infected with cutaneous (skin) anthrax, of which there were no fatalities.
- In the 1990s, the cult Aum Shinrikyo failed in attempts to release anthrax and botulinum toxin in Tokyo but did succeed in a chemical attack with Sarin nerve agent.
- In 1984, the cult followers of Baghwan Shree Rajneesh sickened 751 people in Oregon by placing salmonella bacteria in salad bars in 10 restaurants to keep people from voting in an election.
- In World War II, Unit 731 in Japanese-occupied Manchuria dropped plague-infected fleas in China, allegedly resulting in more than 50,000 deaths.
- In World War I, German agents successfully infected Allied livestock with anthrax and glanders.
- In the 1340s, Europeans threw plague-infected cadavers over city walls to infect those within.
Now, however, the biological attacks are a lot more sophisticated. And over the past year, there’s been quite a lot of talk about biological attacks. Let’s take a look.
July 2018: The FDA has approved a smallpox drug
Last week, the FDA announced that they had approved TPOXX as the first drug to treat smallpox. Now, the FDA approves new medications all the time, but what makes this so interesting is the fact that smallpox has been completely eradicated. The last natural case occurred in 1977. It was eradicated through a vaccination program, but the vaccine proved dangerous.
It has the potential to cause serious, even deadly, side effects. And not everyone can receive the vaccine. As Peter J. Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, told the New York Times, we can’t give the smallpox vaccine to people who are pregnant, H.I.V. positive, undergoing cancer treatments, or with other health conditions. (source)
Here’s what the FDA had to say about TPOXX in a press statement:
“To address the risk of bioterrorism, Congress has taken steps to enable the development and approval of countermeasures to thwart pathogens that could be employed as weapons. Today’s approval provides an important milestone in these efforts. This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “This is the first product to be awarded a Material Threat Medical Countermeasure priority review voucher. Today’s action reflects the FDA’s commitment to ensuring that the U.S. is prepared for any public health emergency with timely, safe and effective medical products.” (source)
It’s important to note that although the virus was declared eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization, there are at least two stores of the virus (that we know of.) One is in the US and the other is in Russia. Of course, we have no way of knowing if some kind of rogue nation or terror cell has somehow managed to acquire the virus.
One small outbreak that occurred since the last natural case happened n 1978 in Birmingham, England.
The 1978 smallpox outbreak in the United Kingdom claimed the life of Janet Parker (1938–1978), a British medical photographer, who became the last recorded person to die from smallpox. Her illness and death, which was connected to the deaths of two other people, led to an official government inquiry and triggered radical changes in how dangerous pathogens were studied in the UK. The government inquiry into Parker’s death by R.A. Shooter found that while working at the University of Birmingham Medical School, she was accidentally exposed to a strain of smallpox virus that had been grown in a research laboratory on the floor below her workplace, and that the virus had most likely spread from that laboratory through ducting. (source)
Of course, anyone who read “The Stand” by Stephen King knows how these accidents can turn into something awful. And of course, we all know that it isn’t impossible for an incident to occur as long as these viruses still exist.
The disease is truly horrifying.
Smallpox is among the world’s most feared diseases. By some estimates, the virus killed more people than every other infectious disease combined, and more than triple the number killed in every war in the 20th century.
“Smallpox was clearly the most serious infectious disease that mankind has endured over history,” says Dr. D.A. Henderson, who led the international effort that eradicated smallpox in 1977.
The virus can spread easily from one person to the next. History shows it hides in the body for about a week before erupting in a burning fever, convulsions, throbbing pain and terrible blisters all over the body.
“What is particularly disturbing to the patient, certainly, is that they’re inside of the mouth and over the tongue,” Henderson says. “So he has trouble eating, and he has trouble drinking. It’s probably the most horrible disease you can imagine.”
About a third of victims die. Many survivors are left scarred and, sometimes, blind. (source)
I wouldn’t have read quite so much into the appearance of this new drug except for a story out of Germany.
June 2018: Germany just thwarted a biological terror attack
It was announced last month that a man who arrested in Cologne, Germany was plotting a deadly terror attack.
The 29-year-old Tunisian man arrested last week in Cologne was creating a deadly biological weapon he intended to use for a terrorist attack somewhere in the country. Where exactly is still unknown, and is one of several issues still being scrutinized by investigators.
“There were very concrete preparations for such an act using, if you will, a biological bomb,” Holger Münch, president of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, the BKA, told public broadcaster RBB. “This is a first in Germany.”
Various Islamist groups, Mr. Münch noted, have published instructions on the internet on how to make biological weapons from the deadly toxin ricin. “Obviously, this person was following these (instructions),” he said.
Sief Allah H., whose last name wasn’t revealed in line with German privacy laws, had already begun to produce ricin from castor seeds, according to Mr. Münch. The seeds and components required to build an explosive device were also found in his apartment. (source)
Ricin is incredibly deadly. Just a few milligrams of the powder is enough to be lethal if the substance is injected, inhaled or swallowed.
December 2017: North Korea was found to be working with Anthrax
Everyone remembers the video of the North Korean defector who risked his life to make a run for freedom across the border to South Korea in a hail of gunfire last year.
But what you may not recall is the fact that the man had high levels of anthrax antibodies in his system, which means he had to have either been exposed to or vaccinated againstthe deadly toxin. This sparked fears that another report was true: that North Korean researchers were trying to figure out how to send an anthrax-tipped missile to the US.
The North Korean regime has started tests with a view to loading intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with anthrax, according to regional media reports.
Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Tuesday that Pyongyang had undertaken heat and pressure resistance tests, citing an intelligence source in South Korea…
…the Trump administration released its National Security Strategy, which warned North Korea was “pursuing chemical and biological weapons which could also be delivered by missile.”
It read: “North Korea—a country that starves its own people—has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could threaten our homeland.” (source)
If the talks between President Trump and Kim Jong Un were indeed effective, perhaps this is something about which we no longer need to be concerned.
October 2017: DHS Announced Plans for a Biological Attack Drill in Oklahoma
Last October, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they were planning a drill in Oklahoma near the border of Kansas.
The first drill starts in January and continues into February of next year at two buildings within the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School (Chilocco campus) in Newkirk, Kay County, Oklahoma. The location is about 6-miles south of Arkansas City, Kansas. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) plans to release low-levels of inert chemicals and biological stimulant materials simulating a biological attack on critical infrastructure. S&T is studying the penetration capabilities of a biological stimulant against resident buildings.
DHS’s strategical goal for the operation is to “detect and recover from biological attacks and inform and support biodefense planning, response, and restoration, particularly in consequence/risk assessment modeling of the indoor hazards posed by outdoor aerosols”. (source)
After a public outcry of the release of “harmless” chemicals, the DHS suspended the drill.
…the Department of Homeland Security suspended the plan for chemical testing at Chilocco Indian School…
…According to a published 58-page assessment of the testing, researchers would have been releasing inert chemicals into the air and measuring how much of them penetrate the buildings on site.
The department says the test would have determined how protected people would be when staying inside if biological agents are used in a terror attack.
The government insisted the chemicals were harmless. (source)
The concern seems to be growing
One thing is obvious. The concern over a biological attack seems to be increasing with reports every couple of months about threats and preparations. It begs the question, what do they know about this that we don’t?
The DHS has released information about the possibility.
A biological attack is the intentional release of a pathogen (disease causing agent) or biotoxin (poisonous substance produced by a living organism) against humans, plants, or animals. An attack against people could be used to cause illness, death, fear, societal disruption, and economic damage. An attack on agricultural plants and animals would primarily cause economic damage, loss of confidence in the food supply, and possible loss of life. It is useful to distinguish between two kinds of biological agents:
- Transmissible agents that spread from person to person (e.g., smallpox, Ebola) or animal to animal (e.g., foot and mouth disease).
- Agents that may cause adverse effects in exposed individuals but that do not make those individuals contagious to others (e.g., anthrax, botulinum toxin). (source)
In such an attack, you could be in a technology vacuum. Cell towers may be shut down to reduce the possibility of remote detonations of other devices. At least in the UK, there is a plan in place to shut down “unhelpful information” on the internet.
The important thing to remember is that in this and any other type of terror situation, you’ll be completely on your own. The things you learn ahead of time may be the only information you have available to deal with a situation. Here is a link to the fact sheet the DHS created about the potential of biological threats.
Are you concerned about the possibility of a biological attack?
Do you think a biological attack on the US is likely or possible? Do you have any preparations specific to this threat? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.