Nottage: Threat of biological attack occurring is ‘very real’

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Bahamas could face a Bioterrorism attack especially with all the illegal Landings now occurring in the country…

Minister of National Security, Dr. Bernard Nottage delivers the Opening Address at the start of the Crisis Management Workshop and Simulation Exercise on Bio-terrorism at the Paul H. Farquharson Conference Centre, Police Headquarters. Seated to Dr. Nottage's left are: Carl F. Smith, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Security and Moderator; Fr. Stephen E.R. Davies, Royal Bahamas Police Force Chaplain and Education and Training Officer, and senator Keith Bell, Minister of State, National Security.

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The threat of a bioterrorist attack occurring anywhere in the world is “real” and should be taken seriously by all global countries, Minister of National Security Dr. the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage said Tuesday. Addressing the Opening Session of a three-day Crisis Management and Simulation Exercise on Bioterrorism Workshop at the Paul Farquharson Centre, Police Headquarters, Dr. Nottage said there is much evidence to suggest that terrorists have a “strong interest” in the use of biological weapons.

“There is much evidence to suggest that terrorists have a strong interest in the use of biological weapons (as) detained terror suspects have in the past, declared that their organisations are capable of using, and will use, these biological weapons such as Anthrax in 2001,” Dr. Nottage said. “Police raids around the world have also revealed the intentions of such groups through the seizure of manuals relating to the production and use of various biological weapons.

“There is no question in my mind that the threat is real. A single bioterrorist attack can cause hundreds, or even thousands, of deaths. It can annihilate entire states such as our very own. Moreover, even if the hundreds or thousands do not die, the fear, panic and subsequent social and economic disorder that could follow such an attack are additional reasons why we should take this threat seriously,” Dr. Nottage added.Dr. Nottage said the continued expansion of the biotechnological industry throughout the world also adds to an increased potential for a bioterrorist attack as new pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi or other micro-organisms that can cause disease) and ideas that drive their creation, are quickly multiplying, as a result of that expansion.

“While we do not dispute the work of these biotechnology industries, we must be conscious of the fact that the expansion of these industries also increases the chances that terrorists will grasp any opportunity to get their hands on these pathogens and their methods of production.”Dr. Nottage said the emergence of synthetic genomics from simple chemical blocks over the past few decades, has also “elicited concerns” about the potential misuse of this technology for harmful purposes.“In 2002, scientists at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York, recreated the polio virus from scratch, based on its published genetic sequence. When this synthetic virus was injected into mice to demonstrate that it was active, the animals soon became paralyzed and then died.

“This demonstration prompted fears that terrorist organizations might exploit the same technique to synthesise more deadly viral agents such as the smallpox virus, as biological weapons,” Dr. Nottage added.The National Security Minister said since then, “legitimate scientists” have recreated other pathogenic viruses in the laboratory, including a SARS-like virus and the formerly extinct strain of influenza virus responsible for the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” pandemic which was estimated to have infected one-third of the world’s population, while killing 3-5 per cent.

“Many still question whether the threat exists or can occur, especially in our part of the world,” Dr. Nottage said. “There is no question in my mind that the threat is real.”