Is the U.S. prepared for a bioterror attack?

Published 11 July 2008

Some experts believe a bioterrorist attack or pandemic outbreak could be inevitable. How would the United States fight back against an infectious disease outbreak?

Picture this scenario: a contagious virus breaks out in America’s heartland. Spreading quickly, it overwhelms hospitals making thousands violently ill and killing hundreds. Chaos rules the streets and the economy is in shambles. Then the worst fears are confirmed: terrorists have released smallpox onto the American public. CBN’s Erick Stakelbeck writes that this is not a Hollywood blockbuster, but an actual terror threat the U.S. government wants to be prepared to fight. “We still need to beef up and get ready for when the next human being purposely infects himself or herself to come into the United States with an intention of either infecting humans or infecting our food source,” said Frank Rapoport. Rapoport helps the government with bioterrorism issues. “After 1991, when 40,000 Russian scientists dispersed all over the globe because they were no longer employed by the Soviet Union — where do you think they went for employment, with the knowledge they have of how to weaponize e-bola, the plague, making a cocktail of the worst magnitude?” Rapoport challenged. Some analysts believe former Soviet scientists sold this type of technology to countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Then there’s al-Qaeda. The Pentagon says the group has been pursuing biological weapons for years.

The most famous bio-terror case hit the United States shortly after 9/11 when anthrax was spread through the U.S. postal system. Five people died and at least a dozen more suffered injuries after handling the contaminated mail. Investigators still don’t know who was behind those attacks. “I think most people in the bio-defense world are dumbfounded as to why we haven’t seen more bio-terror attacks. It is too easy to manufacture bioterror threats. They can be manufactured faster than countermeasures can be developed,” said James Joyce, head of San Diego, California-based Aethlon Medical. Countermeasures are Aethlon’s specialty. The small biotech company has developed a device called the hemopurifier. “What the device does is it mimics your own natural immune response of clearing the viruses and toxins before cells and organs can be infected.” he explained. “It’s specifically designed to address viral pathogens that are bioterrorism or pandemic threats.”

The hemopurifier is about the size of a rolling pin. Here is how it works: the device is hooked up to a dialysis machine, then attached to a body part — an arm for instance. It then filters that infected blood - viruses and toxins —- out of