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Biological Warfare

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The world's human population may be destroyed in the near future due to epidemics and wars using biological warfare.

Epidemics have been recorded throughout history in different parts of the world. An epidemic is generally a widespread disease that affects many individuals in a population. The proportions of an epidemic can range from one locale, or it can even turn into a global epidemic, or a pandemic.

Historical epidemics have killed large populations in the past. A well-known historical epidemic was the bubonic plague, also known as "The Black Death". The bubonic plague hit Europe in the mid-14th century. According to Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, the plague killed about two-thirds of Europe's population, a whopping 34 million people. Large parts of Asia and the Middle East were also infected with this disease. The plague continued to reoccur in Europe from the fourteenth century up to the seventeenth century. The last major outbreak of the plague was the "Great Plague of London" in 1665-1666, but the plague still exists today, but only in isolated cases.

Biological warfare is another dangerous factor that has been existent for centuries. In the Middle Ages, during the bubonic plague pandemic, victims of the Black Death were used for biological attacks by flinging their corpses over walls using catapults. The last known incident of using bubonic plague corpses for biological attacks happened in 1710. At this time, Russian forces attacked the Swedes by flinging infected corpses over the city walls of Reval.

The 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention extended a ban on almost all production, storage, and transport of biological weapons. But in 1986, the U.S. government spent $42 million on research on diseases and toxins, hoping to develop strains of anthrax and other infectious diseases.

The first bioterrorism attack ever in U.S. history was in 1984. Followers of the Rajneeshee cult tried to take over a local election by infecting salad bars with Salmonella. The attack caused about 900 people to get sick. The most recent bioterrorism attack was in 2001, when cases of anthrax broke out in the U.S. Letters containing anthrax bacteria were mailed to several news media offices and two U.S. Senators, killing five people. The crime currently remains unsolved.

Biological agents can not only be used in a large scale, but for certain individuals as well. Georgi Ivanov Markov worked as a broadcaster and journalist for the BBC World Service. He criticized the Bulgarian communist regime many times on radio, and it is speculated that as a result of this, the Bulgarian government decided to dispose of him, requesting KGB (Soviet security agency) assistance to do so. On September 7, 1978 Markov was waiting at a bus stop when he was jabbed in the leg by a man holding an umbrella. Markov recalled feeling a stinging pain from where he had been hit by the umbrella tip. He noticed a small red pimple had formed and the pain from being jabbed hadn't gone away. That evening he developed a high fever and was admitted to hospital where he died three days later. At the post mortem, forensic pathologists found a metal pellet the size of a pin-head in Markov's calf. Further examination by experts showed that the pellet contained traces of ricin toxin. Even if the doctors treating Markov had known this it would have made no difference because there was no known antidote to ricin poisoning.

There have been many notable epidemics and biological attacks in the past. There is still potential for more and more dangerous attacks and epidemics to come in the near future.

Currently, the world may soon have another pandemic coming. Avian influenza, or bird flu, which is carried by birds, has infected 205 people worldwide, according to an article in the "San Francisco Chronicle". Although the dangerous H5N1 strain has not yet mutated into a form that can be spread easily among humans, the world fears the worst is yet to come. According to "The Washington Times", The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun a series of experiments to see how likely the bird flu virus could result in a human pandemic. The goal is to substitute the eight genes of each virus, one by one, with the eight genes from the other virus to see which of more than 250 possible combinations create flu viruses that could spread easily among humans. Once the do find the mutation, they could try and create a treatment and vaccination for the virus before it spreads globally.

Professor Bart Currie, from the Menzies School of Health Research, has identified bird flu as Australia's number one communicable disease threat. He states that if bird flu reached

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