forget the bio-weapons

April 30, 2009

While the world is worrying about a strain of H1N1 Influenza commonly referred to as swine flu, there’s been another small outbreak making its way across the web; an outbreak of conspiracy theories which say that the somewhat unusual set of mutations in this virus clearly indicate it was made in a lab. What’s more, it’s a test of a biological weapon that will be used to control the human population. I’ve written before about the fact that mutations of influenza viruses between birds, swine and humans are quite common and happened many times in history, including the infamous 1918 pandemic, but there’s another interesting fact to think about. A biological weapon is simply not an effective means of modern warfare and could actually do more harm to its creators than to a target population, contrary to what sci-fi movies and books might say on the subject.

biohazardAs far as bio-weapons go, swine flu isn’t exactly a good one. In an average year, over 36,000 people die from complications related to the flu. This strain of H1N1 is responsible for 160 deaths out of an estimated 2,500 infections. That makes for a mortality rate of just over 6% rather than a terrifying 50 to 75% we’d expect to see with a powerful bio-weapon attack. Ebola, probably the most feared disease on the planet today, has a mortality rate of up to 90% and can quickly and easily devastate a big community the same way we’d expect a bio-weapon to do. This is why members of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo tried to get their hands on a sample of this hemorrhagic fever in 1994 to use it for terrorist acts against their critics and enemies. A flu that can be treated with commonly existing medications, relatively easily avoided and far from widespread, simply wouldn’t work for a large scale military operation.

There’s also a big problem with developing a bio-weapon in a lab. While it can certainly be done, once you let the virus or bacterium out into the wild, there’s no telling how it would mutate and with what other organisms it could interact. It could very easily and quickly spin out of control, something you wouldn’t want a weapon to do. Thanks to global air travel, the weaponized disease could come back to haunt whoever tried to release it and cause deadly outbreaks in places where it shouldn’t. Biological weapons are just too difficult to control in the modern world. In the Dark Ages, invading armies could throw corpses of those dead from infectious diseases into enemy cities and wait for months, sometimes years, for infections to spread and kill enough people to pry open the city gates without resistance. Today, warfare simply doesn’t work this way and precise infections like this just aren’t possible. Bio-weapons will get out of the target area, spread and backfire.

Finally, there’s the question of why a New World Order would want to start a pandemic. We’re not prepared to deal with a pandemic and should some secret conspiracy trigger one, the fear, chaos and death would cause major economic and political repercussions that have no possible upside. It would be the equivalent of taking a gun, shooting yourself in both kneecaps and saying that this will further your goals because you have stock in the hospital and rehab center that will treat your injuries. It simply doesn’t make sense. So while it might be tempting to find villains and play along with media sensationalism, when we apply some science and logic to the idea of conspiracy theories involving pandemics and bio-weapons, we’ll see that they simply don’t work.

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  • Jeff

    Interesting take but not entirely accurate. Bio-weapons can be controlled by altering the DNA of the host bacteria or virus. You can create a virus that only infects through inhalation and only has a life span of a few hours. Granted not as effective but would still cause the damage needed without the fear of spreading. Yes, mutations are a possiibility but with a short life span the virus does not have enough time to adapt and mutate.