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Pandemic series: a devastating bioterror attack by 2025?

Bioterrorism is a significant and growing threat: in principle, infection of a single person with the right pathogen could create a devastating wave of sickness and death.

Thus far, the world has been largely spared this horror. The most prominent attempts have probably been the Aum Shirinkyo cult, which made multiple attempts at biological attacks, including unsuccessful anthrax attacks.

The failure of Aum Shirinkyo suggests that creating a large-scale attack is quite difficult even with significant resources and the participation of trained scientists. On the other hand, widespread availability of information, better equipment, and new techniques developed over the past 20 years may make it easier.

Here we focus on the possibility of a very large-scale attack, such as could be caused by release of a highly transmissible pathogen such as influenza, smallpox, etc.

By 2025 will a bioterror attack occur in which more than 500K total worldwide cases or 100K worldwide fatalities are reported?

Here we consider only attacks in which a pathogen infects humans (rather than including toxins even if they are biologically generated such as for botulism), and we consider numbers from the WHO, CDC, or other government source.


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