Fears Doomed Jetliners Carried Bio
Weapons - WTC Dust Being Tested
By Ben Fenton in Washington
The Telegraph - London

As the dust started to settle after the destruction of the World Trade Centre's twin towers, the least-recognised of emergency workers were burrowing in the rubble with test tubes, not shovels.
Public health officials in New York and Washington DC had been alerted by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta that the hijacked aircraft may have been carrying a cargo even more deadly than thousands of gallons of aviation fuel.
They were looking for traces of smallpox, anthrax or other epidemic-causing diseases, perhaps packed in the luggage of the hijackers.
For years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which with America was the leading developer of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, there has been a growing fear of what terrorists could do with the planet's most terrifying technologies.
Urgent action by the Americans, working alongside British and other intelligence agencies, is believed to have reduced the chances of a terrorist obtaining the machinery and material necessary to produce a nuclear weapon, although the programmes of rogue states such as Iraq and North Korea remain a significant threat.
But much more worrying to many scientists and defence experts in America is the threat from "bio-terror", the spreading of lethal diseases through the air or in water supplies.
The diseases usually mentioned are anthrax, which is widely available but very hard to keep alive as a "useful" biological warfare agent; smallpox, which is a tougher germ, but hard to obtain; and one or other of the most virulent forms of plague, which is relatively easy to cure with antibiotics once detected.
Smallpox is probably top of the list because of reports that the former Soviet Union had developed techniques to keep the germ alive in an aerosol form that would resist destruction by fire or explosion.
Western populations today, unlike previous generations, are not widely inoculated against the disease because it is supposed to be extinct, except for those phials of smallpox that America and Russia kept for "experimental purposes". American experts believe that Russia cannot account for all its supplies of smallpox.
"The events in New York and Washington were tragedies beyond what anyone had previously imagined, but the potential of biological terrorism is far greater in terms of loss of life and disruption," said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Many experts play down the likelihood of a biological attack, citing the difficulty of cultivating and keeping alive enough disease germs and distributing them with the vagaries of wind and weather.
But as a measure of concern in America, the CDC has contracted two biotech companies to make and stockpile 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine, compared with the seven million now available. The first batches are not expected to be ready until 2004.

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