How do you fight an invisible danger?
In our ongoing series of conversations about Urban Bioterrorism, — we have been struck by several recent realities that confirm our policy of policing the Homeland is wide open to creative and pernicious exploitation of our febrile border defenses.
Our current policy for fighting terrorism on American soil isn’t working. We seek to only deter and then punish the body.
We log citizens and their behaviors while completely ignoring the reality that the most dangerous threats to health, freedom and liberty are microscopic and undetectable — and those dangers live inside people instead of being carried by people as recognizable weapons of mass destruction.
Last week the Associated Press reported in a prescient article titled — Superbugs Emerge Among Urban Poor — that a drug-resistant staph infection is spreading in the Chicago urban core.
Infections are up seven-fold because of crowded living conditions in public housing and in prisons and because big cities create close person-to-person contact that allows easy propagation of disease:
The superbugs, first seen mainly in hospitals and nursing homes, have turned up recently among athletes, prisoners and people who get illegal tattoos. Called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, these staph germs can cause skin infections that in rare cases have led to pneumonia, bloodstream infections and a painful, flesh-destroying condition. MRSA is hard to treat because the bacteria have developed resistance to the penicillin drug family.From 2000 to 2005, the infection rate seen in patients seeking care at Chicago’s main public hospital and its affiliated clinics climbed from 24 cases per 100,000 to 164 cases per 100,000, the study found.
This week we were reminded of the biotoxin terror living among many of us: Pernicious Tuberculosis. “TB Andy” is the new “Typhoid Mary” and we slowly realize our shared memory as a cogent nation has gone dormant and forgetful.
We must remember the greatest way to defeat a nation is to threaten the Public Health of its citizens. Remember one of the most effective battlefield tactics is to severely wound your opponent instead of killing them because wounded soldiers need attention and care and they drain the economic system in their homeland for the rest of their incapacitated lives.
Governments can warn, punish, detain and incarcerate carriers of infectious diseases — but how does one detect an imminent and obvious danger without becoming a paranoid Carceral Nation?
Do we require medical exams before passengers are allowed international travel on an airplane? Do we do blood tests at the security gate?
How could we ever prevent a determined Bioterror attack if terrorists provided 100 disease carriers and placed all of them on different flights into the USA to spread disease and fear over a prolonged period of time? How long is the incubation process? How long would it take the CDC to discover the terroristic scourge? What if only the terrorists had the antidote — would we pay the terrorists to heal an endangered nation? We still haven’t figured out the cause of The Smell in New York City. Was it a test pattern for a future evil effort?
Tuberculosis is a longtime enemy of healthy people and it lives and thrives in the urban core where people do not seek — and are not regularly offered — routine healthcare checkups. Tuberculosis might just be the perfect Bioterror weapon transmission method because of its long history in humankind and in its commonality among carriers.
Will those who test positive for tuberculosis — mainly those who are poor and living in the urban core — be rounded up and incarcerated “for their protection” and the greater goodness of our Public Health system? Will a positive TB test become the new scarlet letters?
We better start thinking creatively for ways to fight Bioterrorism — or we risk having the microscopic view of infections becoming our new national identity.