May 1st 1989, nih and Rockefeller University sponsored a conference on ‘Emerging Viruses’



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May 1st 1989, NIH and Rockefeller University sponsored a conference on ‘Emerging Viruses’

  • May 1st 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



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

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



  • Washer, Peter (2010)

  • Emerging Infectious Diseases and Society

  • New York, Palgrave Macmillan

  • Chapter 7 ‘The Bioterrorism Myth’



Athenians have accused the Spartans of infecting their water springs during the great plague of Athens (430 BC)

  • Athenians have accused the Spartans of infecting their water springs during the great plague of Athens (430 BC)

  • The Black Death in 14th Europe was claimed to be a result of Jews poisoning the wells

  • Existing anti-Semitism was fanned and Jews scapegoated



  • 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



1979 - 64 people died after an accidental release of anthrax from a secret Soviet plant at Sverdlovsk

  • 1979 - 64 people died after an accidental release of anthrax from a secret Soviet plant at Sverdlovsk

  • 1992 - President Yeltsin confirmed Soviet and later the Russian government had engaged in illegal development of biological agents through the ‘Biopreparat’



Iraq admitted it had biological weapons before the first Gulf war

  • 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



1995 - The Aum Shinrikiyo cult used Sarin gas to attack the Tokyo subway killing 12 and injuring 5,000

  • 1995 - 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











  • 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



  • 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?



  • 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



Before AIDS, infectious diseases were thought to be a ‘thing of the past’

  • 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






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