The threat of biological weapons is nearly as old as time itself. There is historical evidence of the deliberate use of biological weapons as early as 400 BC, when Scythian archers dipped their arrows into decomposing bodies or manure before using them. Another example occurred in North America during the French and Indian Wars (1754 – 1767). British forces distributed blankets previously used by smallpox victims to Native Americans. This act of genocide resulted in 50% mortality within the affected tribes. (Stearn, 1945).

War science continues to develop ever more effective weapons of mass destruction. Nations use these weapons to advance their aims through violence and intimidation. The life altering effect of violence and intimidation is not lost on individuals.

War is violence and intimidation by nations for political aims. Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation by groups or individuals for political aims. Unprecedented transfer of knowledge, access to resources and rapid mobility allows individuals to emulate the violence and intimidation practiced by nations, albeit on a smaller scale.

War and terrorism will likely be part of life for the foreseeable future. As sentient beings we work to identify and eliminate the root cause violence. As health professionals we heal the bodies and minds of its victims. To be effective, we must prepare to execute our role in an emergency. The best guide to your role in the care of victims exposed to hazardous substances is your facility's Disaster Response Plan.

© 2008