The method of exposure for most BW agents is by inhalation; whereas, the endemic disease exposure if applicable is by other means. Some are by ingestion, some by arthropod bites, and other by dermal contact with the agent. This does not preclude service members becoming BW casualties by these means. The use of the term "level of care" in this publication is synonymous with "echelon of care" and "role or care.
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Biological warfare - Wikipedia
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How can biological weapons be defended against? Biological defense may be divided into the following categories: prevention, protection, detection, treatment, and decontamination. Prevention may take several forms. In the case of biological warfare, international disarmament and inspection regimes may deter production and dissemination of biological warfare agents.
Intelligence assets may indicate potential threats and allow for preventative action to be undertaken. Protection against biological warfare agents is limited. Protective suits, clothing, gas masks and filters may provide limited protection for short periods of time. However, the persistence of biological agents such as anthrax makes such protections mainly useful for military personnel and first responders. Anthrax can remain active and potentially lethal for at least 40 years.
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It should be noted that anthrax is an exception, as most other agents do not live that long. In addition, vaccination is a form of protection, which may provide substantial protection against naturally occurring agents, although vaccines often provide limited or no protection against genetically engineered variants designed to defeat such vaccines.
During the Gulf War, US and allied forces suffered from a lack of reliable biological agent detection systems. Subsequently, a number of detection systems have been developed. Often it takes from a few hours to a few days to detect exposure to a biological weapon. However, advances in biotechnology will help develop improved and quicker detectors. Treatment options after infection depend on whether or not the infectious agent is identified. If not identified, massive doses of antibiotics may be given in hopes that something may work.
Treatment of victims of biological warfare largely depends on the establishment and maintenance of a good healthcare system. Unlike chemical weapons, which disperse over time, biological agents may grow and multiply over time. Anthrax can remain active in the soil for at least 40 years and is highly resistant to eradication. However, the anthrax contaminated Gruinard Island in the UK was decontaminated, suggesting that decontamination is possible, using chemicals, heat, or UV rays. Using biological and chemical weapons was condemned by international declarations and treaties, notably by the Hague Convention IV respecting the laws and customs of war on land.
Biological Agents as Weapons
Efforts to strengthen this prohibition resulted in the conclusion, in , of the Geneva Protocol, which banned the use of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases, usually referred to as chemical weapons, as well as the use of bacteriological methods of warfare. The latter are now understood to include not only bacteria, but also other biological agents, such as viruses or rickettsiae, which were unknown at the time the Geneva Protocol was signed. However, the Geneva Protocol did not prohibit the development, production, and stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons.
Attempts to achieve a complete ban were made in the s in the framework of the League of Nations, with no success. The prohibition of chemical and biological weapons appeared on the agenda of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament in Geneva now called the Conference on Disarmament in One year later, the United Nations published an influential report on the problems of chemical and biological warfare, and the question received special attention at the UN General Assembly.
The UN report concluded that certain chemical and biological weapons cannot be confined in their effects in space and time and might have grave and irreversible consequences for humans and nature. This would apply to both the attacking and the attacked nations. Due to interest in the topic in the end of the s, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was signed in and entered into force in It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
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The Convention, about four pages long, bans the development, production, stockpiling, and acquisition of biological agents or toxins of any type or quantity that do not have protective, medical, or other peaceful purposes, or any weapons or means of delivery for such agents or toxins. Under the treaty, all such materiel is to be destroyed within nine months of the Treaty's entry into force.
The BWC currently has states parties and five signatory states. Since the entry of the Convention, eight review conferences have taken place. The rapid developments in the life sciences with dual-use dimensions in the past years have pushed the BWC back into the centre of the disarmament regime. The greatest challenge for the Convention is therefore its ability to keep pace with these developments and ensure the continued international norm against the use of BW be upheld.