Top 10 Biological Weapons
All of us know what smallpox is. Technically, it is caused by the variola virus and CDC stated that most common form of smallpox cause about 30% mortality rate. The disease predominantly spread throuh direct contact with an infected individual’s bodily fluids or skin. It is notable that the virus can be airborne in closed, confined environments. The World Health Organization eradicated smallpox through mass vaccinations in 1967, and as a result, the last known natural case of smallpox was in 1977. However, several sources confirmed that laboratory copies of smallpox still exists ad in fact played a role in several countries’ bioweapons programs. Only Russia and U.S have WHO-approved stores, but it is still unknown how many secret stockpiles are in the wild. The CDC classifies smallpox as a Category A biological weapon since it can be airborne and mortality rate is high. If the virus is released by some nutcases to general public, the general population is in fact very much at risk. This kind of virus doesn’t have to use flashy methods to unleash either, as using an aerosol form or dumping an infected person to a high-population area would be more than sufficient.
If you haven’t been living in cages in the past decade, you definitely know about this one. Another Category A biological weapon, Anthrax first came into public knowledge when letters containing an unknown white powder were sent to U.S Senate offices and media outlets in the fall of 2001. Those white powder is in fact the spores of the deadly bacteria named Bacillus anthracis. The anthrax letter attack killed 5 among the infected 22. Most cases of anthrax transmission are through skin contact with the spores, but inhalation anthrax is the most deadly form. When you inhale the spores, those little buggers will travel to your lungs and then the immune cells will carry them to the lymph nodes.There, the spores will multiply and release toxins which result in many terrifying symptoms. Inhalation anthrax results in 100% mortality rate, and even under serious medical care, the mortality rate can be reduced only to 75%. One relieving part is that the disease can’t be transmitted from person to person. However, the scariest part is that anthrax virus have very long life. They can sit on the shelf for 50 years or more and still pose a lethal threat. To date, anthrax is one of the most feared and well-known biological weapons.
Named “The Black Death”, plague decimated half the population of Europe back in the 14th century. Even though it was seven centuries ago, the horror of Black Death has continued to resonate through the world until now. The term “plague” actually refers to the Yersinia pestis bacterium, which is a Category A biological weapon. There are two types of main strains, pneumonic and bubonic. Bubonic plague spreads by bites from infected fleas, as well as from person to person through infected bodily fluids. The scariest part is that if infected individuals are not treated within first 24 hours of infection, 70% of those will die. Pneumonic plague is airborne by coughs, sneezes and face-to-face contact, but less common, thank god! Plague victims themselves, either dead or alive, are effective delivery vehicles. The history has proven it time and time again. In 1940, Japan dropped sacks of infected fleas out of airplanes in China, causing a massive epidemic. Today, epidemiologists predict that weaponized plague would be in the form of an aerosol, which will result in pneumonic plague outbreak. Vermin-based, low-tech attacks are still possible options too. The copy of this virus is very easy to come by, since plague still occurs naturally throughout the world. There is no vaccine, but mortality rate can be as low as 5% if proper treatment is received. Currently, several countries including Canada, Germany, Japan, Egypt, Russia, North Korea and the United States are known or suspected to have pursued plague as a biological weapon.
Mortality rate of tularemia is, like plague, 5% overall. However, the micro-organism behind tularemia is one of the most infectious bacteria on our planet. The Soviet Union reported 10,000 cases of tularemia illness in 1941. In the next year, this number shot up to 100,000 during the German siege of Stalingrad. Unsurprisingly, most of these cases were on the German side, and several Soviet bioweapons researcher argued that this was no accident. Many reliable bioweapons scholars and researchers believe that as a result of biological warfare. In fact, Ken Alibek, one of former Soviet bioweapons researcher, helped develop a strain of vaccine-resistant tularemia for the Soviets before he defected to the United States in 1992. Thankfully, tularemia won’t spread between human mosts and can be easily prevented with a vaccine or treated with antibiotics. However, when used in aerosol form, it can spread very rapidly between humans and animal hosts. This factor earns tularemia a spot in Category A biological weapon list.
6 Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
Ebola virus is the culprit behind one of more than a dozen different viral hemorrhagic fevers, and a well-documented killer. Nasty illnesses and symptoms from this virus include copious bleeding. The virus made headlines in the late 1970s when it spread through Zaire and Sudan like wildfire, killing hundreds of people. Whenever there were outbreaks in Africa, Ebola virus has maintained its letal reputation. Even in controlled settings, it has proven to be a very volatile organism. Fortunately for majority of population (or rather unfortunately for the victims), no fewer than seven outbreaks have occured at hospitals and labs, mainly in Africa, the United States and Europe. Currently, the exact origin and natural habitat of Ebola virus is still a mystery, and scientists have only encountered Ebola virus after it has successfully infected a living being, either humans or non-human primates. The virus spreads via direct contact with bodily secretions or blood.
5 Rice Blast
Biological weapons don’t have to target and hit directly to humans. There are a number of bioweapons targeted to destroy food supply, which is a time-tasted military strategy. No food equals to weakened populations, panic, riot and eventual death. Many countries, especially Russia and the United States, have spent obscene amount of money in research projects about diseases and insects that target key food crops. One such weapon is rice blast, a crop disease caused by the fungus named Pyricularia oryzae. What this fungus does is that affected plants will develop grayish lesions on the leaves. And those lesions composed of thousands of fungal spores. Very soon, these spores quickly multiply and spread like wildfire, sapping the plans and leading to severely low crop production. If you are knowledgeable in agriculture, you might be thinking about “breeding resistant plants”. But with rice blast, you have another problem. The fungus is not just one strain, but 219 different strains, so unless you can develop ways to breed resistance to 219 strains, there is no chance.
3 Botulinum Toxin
This deadly bacteria, in weaponized airborne form, is completely colorless and odorless. If the air you inhale contains the toxin, you have no way to know. However, between 12 and 36 hours later, you will get first signs of botulism toxin: vomitting, blurred vision and difficulty in swallowing. Your only hope is antitoxin for this specific virus, and only before the symptoms advance much further. If you don’t get treatment, paralysis will begin. First your muscles then finally your respiratory system. This virus can kill in 24 to 72 hours, and hence, it is one of the six Category A biological weapons. C. botulinum virus actually occurs all over the world, especially in soil and marine sediments. Its availability, power and limited treatability have earned botulinum toxin a favourite spot for bioweapons programs. Fun fact: if small amounts of purified botulism toxin is used properly, the bacteria’s paralytic power can help sooth neurologic diseases and smooth away wrinkles. The brand name of that is something you already know: Botox.
2 Nipah Virus
Viruses don’t remain the same, but adapt and evolve. New strains emerge, mutations occur and the emergence of new viruses is inevitable. Nipah virus, named after the Nipah region in Malaysia, is one such thing. The outbreak in Nipah region in 1999 killed 105 and infected 265. Human to human transmission hasn’t been reported yet, thankfully. However, the exact nature of transference is still uncertain. Nipah virus and a number of other emerging pathogens are classified as a Category C biological weapon. Currently, no country is publicly known to have this virus as biological weapon, or researched about its weaponization. However, 50% mortality rate and its potential for widespread use make it a formidable bioweapon to watch out for.
1 Chimera Viruses
Natural evolution of natural viruses and bacteria aren’t out there to kill us intentionally. Harmful properties and dangerous natures they posses are just their natural characteristics. However, when you combine genetic makeup of those dangerous organisms with humans’ creative minds in finding ways to destroy other humans, you get unthinkable horrors in hand. No, we are not talking about zombie apocalpyse yet. although we are sure we won’t be writing this list when a zombie outbreak occurs. While zombie outbreak maybe a far fetch reality for now, the lab-creation of mutated dangerous organisms is already happening in our world. Geneticists have already discovered ways to combine several viruses, and increase the lethalit of such biological weapons. For instance, the Soviet Union’s Chimera Project during the late 1980s researched the viability of combining Ebola and smallpox into one super virus. Imagine two diseases infecting our population and threatening our lives!