In January 2020, a Coronavirus outbreak left (at least) 25 dead and over 800 sick in China within a few weeks. China has imposed travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. The World Health Organization is considering declaring a global health emergency [1].

The 2014-2016 Ebola Virus epidemic spread like wildfire, with over 15,000 confirmed cases, and over 11,000 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone alone [2].
Season two of the Amazon Original TV series Jack Ryan includes an episode where terrorists exhume an Ebola-ridden corpse, collect live virus particles, and infect a group of American hostages. The goal was to eliminate the entire American political leadership, knowing that the hostages would meet the President of the United States upon their rescue and return to the US.

If you have an idea about where I’m going with this, you are correct. Bioterrorism. The unique thing about viruses is something called latency. In this phenomenon, a pathogenic (i.e. disease-causing) virus will lie dormant within a host (i.e. you) for an extended period of time without causing any disease symptoms. You wouldn’t even know you have an infection, and this can go on for days, weeks, months, or even years [3]. The virus isn’t eliminated from the host, and it can reactivate to begin producing large amounts of virus progeny in very little time. The virus can now leave your body, and infect others around you.

Now imagine this scenario: A bioterrorist engineers a deadly virus (think Ebola or Coronavirus), and releases it into the environment using an agricultural spraying aircraft. Completely unbeknownst, thousands are infected. Two months later, when many of those infected are traveling the world, the virus activates, spreading far and wide. Within weeks, millions are infected. Scientists try to develop vaccines, but the process can take years [4]. Within a few short months, hundreds of thousands are dead. Ebola can take as little as 6-16 days from first symptoms before death occurs [5]. If things are really bad, you know how this ends – with all of it ending.

The good news is that this is highly unlikely. Engineering viruses is a highly knowledge- and resource-intensive process. It also takes a Grade A Evil Scientist Psychopath Terrorist to actually execute a plan like this. Terrorism often involves a motive and an out-group. Humans rarely think of other humans as the out-group.

Anyway, I shall now leave you with your thoughts. Deuces.

1. New York Times. 2020. Wuhan Coronavirus.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019. 2014-2016 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.
3. Wikipedia. 2020. Virus latency.
4. The History of Vaccines. 2018. Vaccine Development, Testing, and Regulation.
5. Singh SK, Ruzek D, eds. (2014). Viral hemorrhagic fevers. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group. p. 444. ISBN 9781439884294

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