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Public Health Problems: Bioterrorism


To begin with, there is a strong necessity to mention that bioterrorism is generally defined as the intentional actions, aimed at making harm for the lives of the people or creatures, living in some particular area through the dissemination of biological agents (bacteria, viruses o toxins). These agents may be either of natural form or in human modification. Originally, the issues of biological terrorism are regarded as the actual and burning problem of nowadays, consequently, the attention of media sources is essentially increased towards these matters. This paper is generally aimed at analyzing the representation of the issues of bioterrorism in different mass media and informational sources for the deeper study of the seriousness of the problem, and how deep are the people concerned with it.

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Media Attention

The fact is that media attention, which is attracted to the problem of biological terrorism is often regarded as unjustified, as this attention mostly increases the level of panic within peaceful citizens, while the best counteraction is the reasonable resistance and properly planned actions, aimed at neutralizing any threat. Kohrs (2008, p. 241) emphasizes bioterrorism as the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other biological agents, which are harmful to human health, agricultural products, flora, or fauna of the attacked area: “Originally, these agents are typically found in nature. Nevertheless, it is possible that they could be changed to increase their ability to cause disease, make them resistant to current medicines, or to increase their ability to be spread into the environment. Biological agents can be spread through the air, water, or food. Terrorists may use biological agents because they can be extremely difficult to detect and do not cause illness for several hours to several days.” In the light of this fact, there is a strong necessity to mention that the definition of bioterrorism as deliberate actions is the generally accepted notion, nevertheless, non-deliberate actions are more likely than terroristic action, especially, taking into consideration that not all biological agents are infectious. Initially, the increased attention to terrorism in general and bioterrorism in particular, have appeared after the occasions on September 11, 2001. Since that time, the public has become essentially worried about the issues of bioterrorism.

This attention is expressed in the discussion of various terroristic organizations, their location, the location of their leaders, and the terroristic acts, which they perform. It should be stated, that the bio terroristic actions have not been registered for the recent three years, nevertheless, countries all over the world are aiming to become defended from the possible expressions of biological threats. Thus, AAMC (2008) provides the following data on the matters of anti-terroristic activity: “The final FY 2005 appropriations bill provides $1.164 billion for the anti-terroristic activity, which includes $396.8 million for the Strategic National Stockpile, $926.9 million for state and local preparedness, $141.1 million for improving the defense capabilities, $79.4 million for biosurveillance activities, and $16.7 million for anthrax vaccine research. The HRSA Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness program receives $491.4 million, a $26.6 million (5.2 percent) decrease below FY 2004. The curriculum development program receives $27.5 million, level with last year. Another $47 million is directed to the NIH for research on countermeasures.”

As for the recent cases of bioterrorism, it should be stated that epidemics like SARS and N1H1 are regarded to be terroristic actions, resulted from the concealed terroristic activity. These viruses could not appear by themselves, and, most evidently, these are the results of human activity. On the one hand, the results of such “attack” are not displayed at once, on the other hand, these “attacks” are performed without the weapons of mass destruction, thus, there is no necessity to blame someone in it, and if there are some initiators, they are not regarded to be responsible in these actions. The fact is that these opinions are not discussed openly. As for the attention of media towards these issues, it should be stated that N1H1 is not regarded as the expression of terrorism, nevertheless, such supposition is made by FDA researchers: “the FDA may now recklessly approve inadequately tested, potentially dangerous vaccines and other drugs if ever the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS) or Defense (DOD) declare a national emergency, whether or not one exists and regardless of whether treatments available are safe and effective. Around $6 billion or more will be spent to develop, produce, and stockpile vaccines and other drugs to counteract claimed biological agents, used for terroristic goals.” (Lendman, 2009, p. 462) Swine flu is also claimed to be some unsuccessful biological experiment, the results of which have spread extensively. Nevertheless, if they got spread with someone’s assistance, these are the symptoms of bioterrorism, and the fact, that these actions may stay unpunished.

The largest part of media attention for bioterrorism is applied in the context of biological defense and elaboration of means and measures, aimed at improving the defense levels of national armies and security services. Thus, the press service of WHO often publishes the facts as for the matters of international documentation, aimed at unifying various States for the collective defense and collective security within the frames of global terrorism resistance, and bioterrorism in particular. It is emphasized, that International Health Regulations (2005) have been revised in 2007, for the more effective terrorism resistance. WHO (Public Health, 2009) emphasizes that these changes have essentially changed the allover image of the global security system, and the way that key public health issues of global significance are handled by the international community. Consequently, these rules were updated and changed by the current needs of global security and health care systems. The attention of media towards these events is stipulated by the fact, that people wish to know how they may be defended by the governments of their countries if the threat of bioterrorism becomes real. Moreover, all the defense measures make people assured that they are cared for, consequently, everything is under control.


Finally, there is a strong necessity to mention that the issues of bioterrorism are not paid much attention in various media in comparison with other factors of everyday life on the global scale. It is stipulated by the fact that the public should not be shocked (as panic may be provoked) on the one hand, and the notion that bioterrorists act quietly, and the results of their activity are not displayed at once. On the other hand, the actions, performed by international organizations and governments of the states are extensively highlighted, as the anti-terroristic policies and health care systems should be constantly improved.


AAMC (2008) “Bioterrorism Preparedness, FY 2007 Funding”. Web.

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Kohrs, B. (2008). Bioterrorism Defense: Are State Mandated Compulsory Vaccination Programs an Infringement upon a Citizen’s Constitutional Rights?. Journal of Law and Health, 17(2), 241.

Lendman, S (2009) “N1H1 (Swine Flu) Is now Level 6 Pandemic- Manditory Vaccinations?” Journal of American Healthcare. Vol.6 no. 45. Pp. 456-470.

Public Health (2009) “Bioterrorism” Grey Bruce Health Unit. Web.

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