Expert says U.S. is vulnerable to bioterrorism

Donald Donahue, the director of the Center for Health Policy and Preparedness at the Potomac Institute in Arlington, Virginia, recently said that the United States is vulnerable to bioterrorism.

Despite the recent successful strike against Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, other counterterrorism headlines about an ominous set of letters sent to Dallas, Houston and Washington serve as a reminder that bioterrorism is still possible, according to the Washington Times.

Donahue said that these letters, which contained vague references to al-Qaeda and the FBI, also contained an off-white powder that was later determined to be non-hazardous and were mailed to public schools. More than three dozen envelopes were sent.

“But what if the next envelope contains a toxic or pathogenic substance?” Donahue said, according to the Washington Times. “What has been a minor annoyance can rapidly become a crisis. Bomb threats against government buildings were once a slight distraction - until the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City came down.”

Donahue questioned how the country would be able to deal with these incidents in smaller areas like Grapevine, Texas, and if the U.S. health system could deal with the many people who might require evaluation or treatment during a real anthrax infection.

“It can take a week or more to get a primary care appointment, even with the best insurance available,” Donahue said, according to the Washington Times. “In 2001, a handful of anthrax letters wreaked havoc. What impact might a sackful have?”

While Donahue said the letters are unrelated to the recent killing of bin Laden, he said these current incidents can act as a warning to place the country on notice to prepare for a real anthrax attack.