The recent occurrence in the USA of deliberate release of virulent Bacillus anthracis in letters sent to three media corporations and to the American senate has led to a great anxiety in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. Numerous letters have been suspected to contain B. anthracis spores and several have contained powder of different types. In none of the tested letters collected by the Swedish police have we been able to detect anthrax bacilli. Powder containing letters have been tested with either bacterial isolation and/or B. anthracis specific PCR. Anthrax is a disease found naturally in herbivores and is occasionally spread to humans. It is caused by the gram-positive rod B. anthracis that was discovered by Robert Koch in 1876. Beginning in the 1930s many states have developed B. anthracis for use as a weapon. A few releases of the bacteria have been reported before October 2001. B. anthracis causes three forms of disease, cutaneous, pulmonary and gastro-intestinal. The pulmonary form is the most dangerous and may lead to death merely one to two days after onset of severe symptoms. This is due to the rapid growth and release of several potent toxins that engage the immune system and promote tissue destruction. B. anthracis infection can be treated with several antibiotics, among which quinolones and tetracyclins have been recommended. Diagnosis can readily be achieved by microscopy, bacterial isolation and PCR at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and the Swedish Defence Research Agency. Antibiotics relevant for treatment of B. anthracis infections are already stockpilled in our country. Further actions to strengthen our capability to deal with bioterrorism are ongoing.
Biological weapons have been known for centuries, and since World War II, offensive programs have accelerated the development of these weapons considerably. The anthrax attacks in the fall 2001 and speculations regarding the research and development of Iraqi bioweapons have been causes for concern. The effect of biological weapons may be overwhelming, in particular when one is dealing with a contagious agent. The National Centre for Biological Defence provides a preparedness capability through evidence-based research and practical operational capabilities.
Diseases and biological toxins have been used as weapons of war throughout recorded history, from Biblical times through to the present day. Bioweapon uses have historically been directed primarily, although not exclusively, against human populations. Specialised technicians and state-of-the-art research facilities are no longer necessary for the production or deployment of many known bioweapon agents and commercially available technologies now permit the large-scale production of bioweapon agents in small-scale facilities at relatively low cost. Failures in the detection and containment of bioweapon and emerging disease outbreaks among populations of wildlife and indigenous peoples in developing countries could result in severe erosion of genetic diversity in local and regional populations of both wild and domestic animals, the extinction of endangered species and the extirpation of indigenous peoples and their cultures. Our ability to understand and control the spread of diseases within and among human and animal populations is increasing but is still insufficient to counter the threats presented by existing bioweapon diseases and the growing number of highly pathogenic emergent infections. Interdisciplinary and international efforts to increase the monitoring, surveillance, identification and reporting of disease agents and to better understand the potential dynamics of disease transmission within human and animal populations in both industrialised and developing country settings will greatly enhance our ability to combat the effects of bioweapons and emerging diseases on biological communities and biodiversity.
We assessed the self-reported theoretical and practical preparedness training of Canadian emergency medical services (EMS) providers in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) events.
We designed an online survey to address the theoretical and practical CBRN training level of prehospital providers. Emergency medical services staff in British Columbia and Ontario were invited to participate.
Of the 1028 respondents, 75% were male, and the largest demographic groups were front-line personnel with more than 15 years of experience. Only 63% of respondents indicated they had received either theoretical or practical training to work in a contaminated environment, leaving 37% who indicated they had received neither type of training. Of those that had received any training, 61% indicated they had received "hands-on" or practical training and 82% indicated they had received some training in identification of a possibly contaminated scene. Only 42% had received training for symptoms of nerve agents, 37% had received training for symptoms of blister agents and 46% had received training for symptoms of asphyxiants. Thirty-two percent had received training for the treatment of patients exposed to nerve agents, and 30% had received training for the treatment of patients exposed to blister agents. Only 31% of all respondents had received training for detecting radiation.
CBRN events involve unique hazards and require specific education and training for EMS providers. A large proportion of Canadian EMS providers report not having received the training to identify and work in contaminated environments.
The objective of this study was to quantify the thermal strain of soldiers wearing nuclear, biological, and chemical protective clothing during short-term field training in cold conditions. Eleven male subjects performed marching exercises at moderate and heavy activity levels for 60 minutes. Rectal temperature (Tre), skin temperatures, and heart rate were monitored. Ambient temperature (Ta) varied from -33 to 0 degrees C. Tre was affected by changes in metabolism, rather than in Ta. Tre increased above 38 degrees during heavy exercise even at -33 degrees C. The mean skin temperature decreased to tolerance level (25 degrees C) at Ta below -25 degrees C with moderate exercise. Finger temperature decreased below 15 degrees C (performance degradation) at Ta of -15 degrees C or cooler. The present results from the field confirm the previous results based on laboratory studies and show that risk of both heat and cold strain is evident, with cooling of extremities being most critical, while wearing nuclear, biological, and chemical protective clothing during cold-weather training.