Management of Biological Disaster

The concept of ‘contagion’ developed and the earliest societies devised methods and systems that could contain the spread of such diseases to ensure a reasonable level of health for the populace. The spread of agriculture and domestication of animals led to economic development and the realization that diseases affecting crops and livestock could also affect the well-being of human societies as they became more complex, and populations increased. The increase of population also resulted in the congregation of a large number of susceptible people in limited spaces. The larger communities became vulnerable to food supply and trans-species migration of infectious agents. As a Result the large scale epidemics leading to economic disasters. Similarly, large scale loss of livestock or crops also resulted in the destruction of the social fabric.

Apart from the biological disaster of natural origin, the extension of human activity and its contact with a hitherto localized microbial environment introduces novel pathogens (Nipah, Hendra, Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa fever viruses). In the case of HIV, a sporadically occurring phenomenon that of transmission of the virus from chimpanzee to man-became a pandemic and has since the largest epidemic in history. Human conflict resulting in large scale population movement, breakdown of social structures, and contact with alien groups has always generated a large number of infections. Further, the introduction of a communicable disease in the enemy camp has been exercised by military commanders from the earliest times.

Whether naturally acquired or artificially introduced, highly virulent agents have the potential of infecting large numbers of susceptible individuals and in some cases establishing infectious chains. The potential of some infectious agents is nearly as great as that of nuclear weapons and, are, therefore, included in the triad of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC).