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We must better prepare for biological weapons

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Abagail Huebner
June 11, 2010

The threat of biological weapons may seem like a distant alarmist fantasy, but the reality is the United States isn’t prepared to handle a biological attack or even an outbreak of a serious infectious disease. The most important change we can make is for government to form a partnership with the media to better inform citizens.


Not a lot is known about the threats biological agents pose to American security. Secretary Tom Vilsack of the USDA said, “A prediction of 75 people suffering from a food-borne illness can turn into 5,000 casualties fairly quickly.”


Testing for biological agents and contaminants in food is difficult just like testing for airborne biological agents is difficult. Sensors can be placed at every key city, but a change in the wind can cause a serious threat to go undetected until people start getting sick. All citizens are informed by the media, who might misreport or only partially hear information and cause a panic. Rep. Paul Ryan believes “the CDC does quite a bit and plays a big role [in informing the public].”


However, the government should work with the media to better inform the public.


Because of changes created by the new health care bill, Sen. Herb Kohl stated, “pandemics won’t spread as quickly and as far.” Hospitals are to be better prepared. People will be more likely to see doctors if they’re feeling sick. In short, professionals will be better equipped to handle a biological attack, and strengthening general health will increase our resilience.


Any step the government makes is useless if the average population does nothing. The most important change we can make is for government to form a closer partnership with the media. It’s imperative that government assumes slightly more responsibility while leaving some initiative for the average citizen.


Abagail Huebner wrote this as part of Washington Seminar at Janesville Parker High School.

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