Thursday, May 17, 2012

BOKO HARAM BIOTERRORISM


BOKO HARAM 

BIOTERRORISM POTENTIAL 
‘LASSA FEVER


The very nature of asymmetric warfare, which is currently being employed by Boko Haram, mandates that you prepare for the unexpected. While I applaud the findings and recommendations contained in your committees report dated November 30, 2011 regarding Boko Haram; I believe the omission of any mention of the potential of bioterrorism attack by Boko Haram could be a disastrous oversight with grave consequences for the US Homeland.

Please allow me to frame my discussion within the context of two of the five recommendations outlined in the Congressional Report on Boko Haram.

RECOMMENDATION (1)

‘DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE BOKO HARAMS INTENT AND CAPABILITY TO
ATTACK THE U.S. HOMELAND: As this report makes clear, the U.S. Intelligence Community has recently underestimated the intent and capability of terrorist groups to strike the homeland, most notably Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These underestimations had near deadly consequences on Christmas Day 2009 over Detroit and in May 2010 in Times Square.’

First, let me state categorically that the Republic of Nigeria is completely unprepared to detect, deter or defend against an attack utilizing bioweapons to cripple any of its critical complexes including government, energy, oil and gas, banking and health services.

I am informing you of what has been told to me, on several occasions; one of their major weaknesses is a complete lack of bio surveillance/deterrence or intelligence.

This lack of capacity in Nigeria’s biodefense may currently be being exploited and/or probed by interest determined to undermine the unity of the Republic of Nigeria and attack US interest in the region.

 I want you to consider the recent outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) in, Ebonyi, Taraba, Rivers States and Yola being reported in the Nigerian press:


·         Re: Nigeria: Lassa Fever cases- Outbreak among doctors in Ebonyi State

Source: http://www.thenationonlineng.net/201...ever-back.html

Is Lassa fever back?
By WALE ADEPOJU

Lassa fever is back as cases are being reported in some parts of the country. The vectors are rats and dirty environment. WALE ADEPOJU writes on the Federal Government’s effort to contain the disease.

Lassa fever, an acute viral haemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus found in rats, is on the loose in some parts of the country. The death of a medical doctor was reported in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State while unconfirmed reports claimed Imo and some northern states are experiencing what may turn out to be an epidemic, if not checked...


·         Apr 7, 2011
Nigerian physicians hit by Lassa fever

A physician at a medical center in Nigeria recently died of Lassa fever, and two other physicians from the same center are being treated for the disease, the
Nigerian Tribune reported today. The doctors, working at the Federal Medical Centre in Yola, Adamawa state, experienced symptoms of a viral hemorrhagic fever in early March after treating a patient, said Dr. Aliyu Danburam, chief medical director there. All three were referred to the Irrua Specialist Medical Centre for the Control of Tropical and Infectious Diseases, where the disease was confirmed. One of the patients died there, and the other two were still being treated, the story said. Because of the highly infectious nature of Lassa fever, the Nigerian health ministry's epidemiology unit set up a surveillance squad at the Yola medical center to screen all cases that could possibly be linked to the outbreak, Danburam reported. The story did not specify whether any other cases have been confirmed. Apr 7 Nigerian Tribune story

·        

       February 10, 2012 – NIGERIA

Seven people have reportedly died in Taraba State, following an outbreak of Lassa fever a couple of days ago. The state Commissioner for Health, Prince Mustapha Hamman Gabdo, confirmed this while briefing journalists in the state. The commissioner said four of the victims of the disease died at the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo, one died at the Government House Clinic, Jalingo, and the two others, who contracted the disease in Taraba State died in Gombe State after travelling there for treatment. He said the ministry had already taken measures to stop the spread of the epidemic and would embark on sensitization campaigns as well as vaccinate the entire people of the state against the disease. Shedding more light on the source of the dreaded fever and its dangers to human beings, the head of Epidemiology unit in the state Ministry of Health, Innocent Vakai, said the disease was transmitted by a specific rat which had no hair on its tail. The epidemiologist said the symptoms of Lassa Fever included severe headache, high fever, vomits that passed through all the openings in the human body, just as he advised persons having such symptoms to rush to the nearest hospital for medical attention. Similarly, the Taraba State House of Assembly, on Thursday, summoned an urgent public importance sitting, followed reported cases of outbreak of Lassa fever in Jalingo, the state capital. Member representing Gembu Constituency, Honorable Abubakar Jugidda, who disclosed this before the assembly, stressed the need for the state government to look into the issue immediately to control the epidemic to save lives. The law maker urged the house to impress on the state government to direct the ministry of health to provide the necessary drugs to the victims of the disease. –Tribune 

·         Lassa fever kills doctor, 12 others in Taraba

An outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic virus Lassa at the Federal Medical Center in Jalingo has killed at least 13 people since its detection a week ago in Taraba state, Xinhua reported.

The outbreak of the virus has forced the management of the medical center to close some of its units.

The virus is transmitted primarily though contact with rat excreta.

Mustapha Hamman-Gabdo, the Taraba state commissioner for health, said some people admitted to the centre for different ailments were later diagnosed with Lassa fever.

He said that a female medical doctor, Aisha Isa died on Sunday at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital while Amina Abdullahi, a nurse died in Jalingo on Monday. Both of them were staff of the center.

The commissioner said that the state government is already taking steps to control the outbreak.


      February 13, 2012

Port Harcourt — Lassa fever, a viral killer diseases carried by rodents especially rats, is now an epidemic in Rivers State, the state government has said.

Dr. Sampson Parker, the state‘s Commissioner for Health, declared the disease an epidemic during an interactive session with the medical staff of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health, when he met them at the weekend in Port Harcourt.

He said a rapid response team will be set up with all resources put into use to tackle the challenge posed by Lassa fever in the state.

“I formally declare that there is Lassa fever epidemic in the state and we must do all we can to tackle the challenge. I think we have capable hands at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital to deal with the Lassa fever menace in the state.

“This is one of the hospitals in the state and it is our responsibility, whether the incident is in UPTH or not. It is the responsibility of the Rivers State Ministry of Health to see the much we can do. This is a public health challenge that we are facing” Parker said.

He commended UPTH for accepting to set up a unit to act as a referral team for the state in the fight against Lassa fever and assured that the Amaechi- led administration would do its best to tackle the epidemic.

Parker stated that the government would provide logistic support including equipment and vehicles for the rapid response team, adding that medical kits would be provided in all model health centres across the state where suspected patient of Lassa fever could be referred to the UPTH.


Additionally, please consider that even if the outbreaks can’t currently be linked to Boko Haram there exist a diverse pathogenic reservoir which is increasing exponentially that can be exploited at a time and convenience by Boko Haram and/or their partners (Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, AQIM).

By way of background I have some experience in the detection of pathogens which may be used as instruments of bioterrorism; my training in biodefense tells me to examine the history of a region as it relates to biological events which cause pain, suffering and death.  I can tell you that I am highly suspect of these outbreaks of Lassa Fever; and when viewed from the context of recent threats by Boko Haram toward southern Nigeria believe they merit investigation from a biodefense perspective.

I believe an investigation would maintain the integrity of your committee’s first recommendation by not underestimating the threat posed by Boko Haram and its partners.

RECOMMENDATION (2)
‘INCREASE U.S. GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR NIGERIAN COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE PROGRAMS: The U.S. Government should increase its support for programs that enhance the ability of Nigerian security forces to more effectively target Boko Haram and counter its evolution. The U.S. and Nigerian governments should also work more closely to increase intelligence collection.’

The U.S. government should assist Nigeria in establishing a Biodense Program at a Nigerian university ,modeled after the Biodefense Program at George Mason University, which would  provide students with a background in the science and technology of biodefense and the specialized areas of threat assessment, non-proliferation, and medical and public health preparedness.

The risks posed by biological threats have increased substantially in recent years due to globalization, advances in science and technology, and the changing nature of con´Čéict and security. These threats are both man-made and naturally occurring. Biological warfare, bioterrorism, as well as emerging infectious diseases, all pose complex threats to human health.

While the responses to man-made and natural occurring disease outbreaks differ in important respects, they both require interdisciplinary collaboration, interagency coordination, inter- governmental partnership, and international cooperation. Students in the Biodefense Program will acquire the knowledge and skills to bridge the gap between scientists and policy-makers on each of these levels. A biodefense program should be designed to educate the next generation of biodefense and biosecurity professionals and scholars.

Nigerian universities offer the U.S. government a platform to enhance Nigerian security efforts as well as to protect U.S. interest in the region while guarding the U.S. homeland from asymmetrical attacks through the use of bioweapons.