Skip to comments.Biowarfare : Another "Sverdlosk Incident" in Russia ?
Posted on 08/25/2005 9:28:24 AM PDT by genefromjersey
Biowarfare : Another Sverdlosk Incident in Russia ?
Ive been looking at two recent (and ongoing) outbreaks of Tularemia in Russia: (Source: ProMed : Archives # 20050824.2503; # 20050822.2467; # 20050718.2066 )
1. 96 people 66 from Dzerzhinsk region; 30 from Nizhniy Novogorod.
2. 56 people all from the Ryazan area , which borders on Nizhniy Novogorod and Vladimir.
What makes it notable is that Tularemia is a fairly rare disease: the Ryazan area had only 4 known cases in 2004.
(No historic stats were furnished on the Nizhniy Novgoros area or Dzerzhinsk , but the number of cases seems out of line.)
The other factor that makes these two outbreaks notable is the presence of Biowarfare facilities in the region especially in the Nizhniy Novogorod area. (Source: Global Security)
Chapayvevsk in Nizhniy Novogorod , is decribed as an Inactive bioweapons destruction facility.
Gorokhovets in Vladimir Oblast , is a bioweapons storage facility.
Dzerhinsk in Nizhniy Novogorod is a facility used for the production of chemical weapons notably Lewisite.
Ryazan is , among other things, the home of a patrooper training facility,and was the scene of recent military manuevers.
1. Russia is still involved in bioweapons research-including the use of Tularemia (with which they have experimented for 3 generations). (Ken Alibek would probably agree.)
2. Some sort of accidental release of weaponized Tularemia may have occurred.
3. The possibility of theft/sabotage/terrorism should be considered.
Or hungry people eating more diseased rabbits?
If they're experimenting with Tularemia, it wouldn't surprise me if they were also working with smallpox.
96 seems like a lot to me, although this is the season for maximum exposure to rabbits. If it's respiratory, then it's more likely it's weaponized; if it's subcutaneous, then probably it's the usual route of handling infected beasties. The stuff is incredibly contagious - threshold dose is 10-50 cells.
Rabbits. Vets always caution about the rabbits. That was my first thought.
Can you elaborate on the connection between Tularemia and smallpox?
Or is do you assume that if they are working with one they are working with the other?
pinging the expert.
One for the TM.
I ping you four because I can remember how to spell your screen names!
what's the weather been like in that region, and has the predatation dropped...
Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russians had a massive smallpox bioweapons program. They had about 20 tons of smallpox virus stockpiled. This was not ordinary smallpox either. It was developed from particularly nasty strains isolated by the Russians during their participation in the program to eradicate smallpox. They even developed and tested special refrigerated ICBM warheads to deliver smallpox in case of a nuclear war which would weaken peoples' immune systems.
There are some books you should read.
This one was published on September 2, 2001.
Great post, what Free Republic is about.
Abilek said the Soviets used tularemia on the Germans in World War Two, but that it backfired on the Soviets and hit them too. His deducing this from old records while a medical student purportedly led to the offer to join the Soviet biological weapons program, which he accepted.
What would perk up my interest if there were hundreds of cases within a week which would make a bioweapon incident highly suspect. Currently the numbers of cases are within the realm of a bad year for those susceptible for Tularemia.
In 1971, a airborne variant of smallpox was tested by the Russians on an island in the middle of the Aral Sea. Unbeknownst to the bio-weapons testers, a fishing boat strayed into the area and the virus infected a person on the boat which was at least 5 miles from the island.
If you remember in the spring and summer of 2002, every industrialized country on the planet scrambled to buy enough smallpox vaccine to cover its entire population despite the fact that the virus was eliminated from nature 25 years earlier. Apparently, in the lead-up to the Iraq war, Putin told Bush that the Russians had given this Aral Sea variant of smallpox to Saddam.
Here's some Ken Alibek/Tularemia info:
Ken Alibek, former Russian scientist and Deputy Chief of the Soviet Bioweapons facility, said that the infectivity and speed of the disease were key reasons for why it was chosen as a bioweapon. Tularemia was considered an ideal weapon for battlefield due to the speed with which it could overwhelm an opponents medical resources, leaving hospitals and physicians unable to cope with a flood of patients in need of constant treatment.
"The truth is that the Omutninsk facility was a reserve biological weapons production facility that could produce tularemia, plague, and glanders biological weapons in time of war."
This is an excerpt from Richard Preston's "Demon in the Freezer":
Like any weapon, a biological weapon can be released accidentally, but when a biological accident happens, the consequences can be particularly insidious. I talked about this with Ken Alibek that day in Bill Patrick's kitchen, while we drank whiskey in the soft light of a winter afternoon.
Alibek spoke about how bioweapons have a disturbing tendency to invade nonhuman populations of living creatures -- thus finding a new niche in the ecosystems of the earth, apart from the human species. When he was the acting director of the biowarfare facility at Omutninsk, his safety officers discovered that wild rodents living in the woods outside the factory had become chronically infected with the Schu-4 military strain of tularemia -- a bacterium that causes a type of pneumonia -- which was being made in the plant.
It was a hot, lethal strain that came from the United States: an American biological weapon that the Soviets had managed to obtain during the nineteen-fifties. Now, unexpectedly, the wild rodents were spreading Schu-4 among themselves in the forests around Omutninsk. The rodents were not the natural host of tularemia, but it had apparently established itself in them as new hosts. People catch tularemia easily from rodents, and it can be fatal. Alibek mounted an investigation and found that a pipe running through a basement area had a small leak and was dripping a suspension of tularemia cells into the ground. The rodents may have come in contact with the contaminated soil in that one spot.
The staff tried to sterilize the forest of rodents near the plant. That didn't work, because rodents are impossible to eradicate. "We could not get rid of the rodents. We tried everything," Alibek said. "Nobody knows today, but we can assume that the tularemia is still there in the rodents." Nobody knows if anyone has died of the American-Russian tularemia around the Kirov region.
Sunlight kills a bioweapon. That is, a bioweapon biodegrades in sunlight. It has a "half-life," like nuclear radiation. This is known as the decay time of the bioweapon. Anthrax has a long decay time -- it has a tough spore. Tularemia has a decay time of only a few minutes in sunlight. Therefore, tularemia should always be released at night.
Thanks for the ping.
We discussed tularemia way back when looking at 'dog diseases'.
Bill, it's 96 + 56 = 152 cases in 2 contiguous areas: a bit much for "wabbit hunting" !
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