Commenting on the ongoing Ebola outbreak, I often note that all the novel medications and vaccines being put in trials are the result of a recognition, post-anthrax, that Ebola could be a potential bioweapon. Almost 13 years have passed since Amerithrax and many have forgotten about the sense of alarm and calamity that gripped the nation in October of 2001.
The specter of bioterrorism is in the headlines again with the revelation that a laptop found in Syria contained information about using plague as bioweapon.
Unlike anthrax, plague--caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis--can be transmissible from person-to-person.
Plague, like anthrax and Ebola, is also classified in the highest priority category (A) and has a long history of use as a bioweapon that stretches back to the times of The Black Death, when a Tartar commander catapulted plague-stricken corpses into the city of Caffa.
In the modern era, the bioweapons programs of the Soviets (and the US) also sought to weaponize plague. One fact that would delimit plague's effectiveness, however, is the fact that it is easily treatable with antibiotics and, upon exposure, prompt administration of antibiotics can abort infection.
The lesson I draw from the discovery of this laptop is that, despite an absence from the headlines, the threat of bioterrorism is itself not absent.