Biowarfare, bioterrorism, and animal diseases as bioweapons: Chapter 6 in Disease emergence and resurgence: The wildlife-human connection

Circular 1285-6




Linkages between disease in humans and the maladies of animals continue to be a focus for those concerned with disease effects on human health. References to animal diseases, particularly zoonoses such as rabies and glanders, are found in the writings of Greek (Hippocrates, Democritus, Aristotle, Galen, Dioscorides), Byzantine (Oribasius, Actius of Amida), and Roman (Pliny the Elder, Celsus) physicians and naturalists.3 Also, early advances in disease knowledge were closely associated with the study of contagions in animals to the extent that “The most complete ancient accounts of the concepts of contagion and contamination are found in treatises on veterinary medicine.”4,5

Opportunities for disease transfer between animals and humans have increased during modern times, partly because of advances in animal husbandry and intensive agriculture that result in increased contacts among humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Infectious pathogens exploit these contacts, and must be considered in this era of increased world tensions and international terrorism (Fig. 6.1).

Disease emergence and resurgence are generally associated with natural processes and unanticipated outcomes related to human behavior and actions. That perspective has been broadened by recent acts of bioterrorism. A new category of deliberately emerging diseases contains emerging microbes that are developed by humans, usually for nefarious use.211 Included are naturally occurring microbial agents and those altered by bioengineering.

This chapter highlights the wildlife component of the pathogen-host-environment triad to focus attention on the potential for bioterrorists to use wildlife as a means for infectious disease attacks against society. The value of this focus is that the underlying causes of disease emergence and the optimal prevention or control response frequently differ for disease emergence, resurgence, and deliberately emerging diseases.211 Differences also exist relative to the potential importance of wildlife as a component of biowarfare and as a component of bioterrorism activities.

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Biowarfare, bioterrorism, and animal diseases as bioweapons: Chapter 6 in Disease emergence and resurgence: The wildlife-human connection
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U.S. Geological Survey
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Reston, VA
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National Wildlife Health Center
42 p.
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Disease emergence and resurgence: The wildlife-human connection (Circular 1285)
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