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Emerging Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism Dr Peter Washer Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science. Birmingham, AL, USA 6-7 March.

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Presentation on theme: "Emerging Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism Dr Peter Washer Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science. Birmingham, AL, USA 6-7 March."— Presentation transcript:

1 Emerging Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism Dr Peter Washer Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science. Birmingham, AL, USA 6-7 March

2 ‘Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases’ May 1 st 1989, NIH and Rockefeller University sponsored a conference on ‘Emerging Viruses’ Spurred the formation of an IoM committee on ‘Emerging Infectious Diseases In 1992, the IoM published Emerging Infections: Microbial Threats to Health in the US

3 Tropical Medicine Like ‘Emerging infections’ the creation of the category of ‘Tropical Medicine’ served political aims

4 Washer, Peter (2010) Emerging Infectious Diseases and Society New York, Palgrave Macmillan Chapter 7 ‘The Bioterrorism Myth’ 4 Emerging infectious diseases and bioterror

5 Plague Athenians have accused the Spartans of infecting their water springs during the great plague of Athens (430 BC) The Black Death in 14 th Europe was claimed to be a result of Jews poisoning the wells Existing anti-Semitism was fanned and Jews scapegoated

6 Smallpox There is evidence that Europeans gave Native Americans blankets they believed infected with smallpox To what extent this was the cause of smallpox epidemics is disputed

7 The USSR people died after an accidental release of anthrax from a secret Soviet plant at Sverdlovsk President Yeltsin confirmed Soviet and later the Russian government had engaged in illegal development of biological agents through the ‘Biopreparat’

8 Iraq’s biological weapons programme Iraq admitted it had biological weapons before the first Gulf war They claimed to have destroyed these after the first Gulf war Those research and production facilities that survived the war were demolished by UNSCOM in 1996

9 Aum Shinriko (chemical attacks) The Aum Shinrikiyo cult used Sarin gas to attack the Tokyo subway killing 12 and injuring 5,000 Despite huge financial resources, expertise and the will to do so, they failed to use infectious diseases as a terrorist weapon

10 The growing interest in bioterrorism before 9/11

11 Life imitating art

12 The anthrax letters

13 Anthrax as the bridge between 9/11 and Iraq “This is evidence, not conjecture. This is true” Colin Powell before the UN Security Council February 5 th 2003

14 The National Security Strategy of the USA 2002 Proposed strengthening emergency management systems to make the country better able to manage terrorism and infectious disease outbreaks The document connects terror, bioterror, and infection of the body and of the nation by foreign bodies

15 The effect on funding bioterrorism preparedness on public health Does the US $1.5 billion budget for bioterrorism preparedness strengthen the public health infrastructure? Or is the spending disproportionate in comparison to federal support for inclusive health coverage?

16 The securitisation of migration Since 9/11 Congress has tightened US border controls and increased surveillance of immigrants Immigrants not only seen as a risk to the health of US citizens, but also as a security risk

17 Conclusion Before AIDS, infectious diseases were thought to be a ‘thing of the past’ Since the mid 1990s, infectious diseases have been recast as ‘emerging’ (from the poor to the rich) Since the late 1990s, this ‘emerging infectious diseases’ paradigm has been transposed onto the issues around bioterrorism As with historical accusations of bioterror, the concerns about infection and contamination feed into and reflect existing political agenda and social concerns

18 References See notes page of presentation


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