NBC Weapons: May 26, 2002

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: On 20 May, public health experts from both sides of the border raised the possibility that the region could be vulnerable to a biological attack. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Dr. Stephen Waterman said that the border could be considered a likely target because of the "potential for uncoordinated response," military targets in San Diego and El Paso, the prevalence of crop-dusting planes that could be used to spread infectious aerosols and the large number of people crossing the border each day. 

The report's authors, Elizabeth Santillanez Robson and Julio Lampell, wrote that "because of the incubation period of infectious agents and the great number of border crossers (over 130,000 daily at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa alone), it would be easy for a terrorist to release pathogens on either side of the border that would rapidly spread in both countries". In addition to Tijuana, San Diego and Los Angeles, the heavy flow of travelers out of that area could rapidly spread the effects to the rest of the US or across the Pacific.

Further east, the Texas Department of Agriculture has been taking steps to protect the agricultural industry. The reappearance of the screwworm along the Mexico-Texas border from importation of an infected herd from Central America in November 1992 has worried US cattlemen, since infection of US cattle herds would result in severe economic losses.

The Texans believe it's going to take more than farmers and ranchers being the "eyes and ears" of defense. The Texas Department of Agriculture contacted county sheriffs (asking them to work with local producers who may report a problem), county judges in the border counties (asking them to help distribute information to local jurisdictions) and border veterinarians (encouraging them to work with local producers).

TDA also informed border patrol facilities and Texas Cooperative Extension agents, asking them to help distribute information to local producers about TDAs food security efforts. - Adam Geibel

Be part of America's defense! Stay informed at: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( www.cdc.gov ) and Texas Department of Agriculture (www.agr.state.tx.us/index.htm )

 


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