January 5, 2009
Entomologists Warn Of ‘Insect-Based’ Biological Terrorism
An academic at Wyoming University has warned that it would be "relatively easy" for terrorists to launch a devastating attack using swarms of insects to spread a deadly disease.
"Rift Valley Fever or other diseases could be transported into a country by a terrorist with a suitcase," said Jeffrey Lockwood, a professor of entomology and author of Six-legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War."I think a small terrorist cell could very easily develop an insect-based weapon," he added.
Lockwood believes it would probably be much easier than developing a nuclear or chemical weapon since the "raw material is in the back yard."
He said it would be a relatively easy and simple process.
He warned that with a few hundred dollars and a plane ticket a terrorist could have a pretty good stab at it.
He suggests that governments develop a robust "pest management infrastructure that's able to absorb and respond to an introduction" of infected insects.
He said trying to stop everything coming in at the border would not work.
The World Health Organization lists Rift Valley Fever as an east African disease that "can cause severe disease in both animals and humans, leading to high rates of disease and death.
"However, the vast majority of human infections result from direct or indirect contact with the blood or organs of infected animals," WHO said.
The disease was first reported among livestock in Kenya around 1915, but the virus was not isolated until 1931.
Approximately 1% of human sufferers die of the disease.
Image Caption: This transmission electron micrograph (TEM) depicted a highly magnified view of a tissue that had been infected with Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus. CDC
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