The three sets of pathogens we have covered this term (Yersinia pestis, Variola major, and hemorrhagic fever viruses) have the potential to result in such devastating illnesses that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified them as Category A Biological Warfare Agents. This means that they: 1) can be easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person; 2) result in high mortality rates and have the potential for major public health impact;
3) might cause public panic and social disruption; and 4) require special action for public health preparedness. Based on these criteria, do you agree with the CDC? Should plague, smallpox, and hemorrhagic fever viruses all be classified together as Category A BW agents?
To answer this question, you need to compare and contrast all three sets of pathogens according to the CDC criteria; are all three equally great risks, or are there significant differences in the risks that they pose? This comparison with be based on your understanding of the pathogens themselves and their impact on human health, including therapies or preventative measures, and historical epidemics/pandemics caused by these pathogens. Here you must draw on the understanding of disease we developed for the first midterm so that you can put these pandemics into historical perspective. The world and our understanding of medicine, have changed very much since the Black Death in 1347; given these changes, what realistic risk do these pathogens pose today? Finally, you should consider efforts to weaponize these pathogens, because such efforts have certainly heightened the risk that they would otherwise pose. Which of these agents have been successfully weaponized and why? What are the limitations posed by all three as BW? What do you think is the likelihood that a state or non-state actor would deliberately use them?
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