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Actually, the heading should read Hemorrhagic viral fevers, but since the filovirus group (a group of viruses which includes the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses) are the most likely candidates for being converted into biological weapons, I decided to make the heading more specific. Filoviruses are so named because they are shaped like tiny hairs.
Hemorrhagic viral fevers are characterized by bleeding from wherever bleeding can occur. There are large patches of bleeding under the skin, bleeding from the gums, the nose, the mouth, the anus, in the urine, and from every other conceivable opening. There are also reports of bleeding occurring from the nipples of a man affected with the Marburg virus. The bleeding is rapid, profuse and unstoppable. The blood that flows out of the victim is unable to clot, forming a liquid pool around his body. I do not exaggerate when I say "pool of blood". So horrible is the disease and so infectious is the agent causing almost no one is ready to look after the victim who has to be kept segregated in the most extreme isolation.
The victim generally dies in a few days ( around 1 week after the appearance of symptoms) of hypovolemia, or from liver failure and death in such a condition is possibly a relief.
The USSR was involved in making biological weapons with Marburg at their VEKTOR facility in Siberia. The Russians are also suspected of having made a "chimerical" organism by making a hybrid of Ebola and Smallpox (EbolaPox).
Image : VEKTOR, Siberia.
enormously difficult to
grow these viruses in the laboratory. Sometimes, the only way to grow these
viruses is to inject them into animals in whose bodies they replicate and
increase in number. Doing even this is very difficult technically.
Ease of delivery :
These viruses are extremely
fragile. They need to be preserved in liquid nitrogen containers for being
transported from one place to another e.g. from the source of an epidemic to the
The infectivity varies
for different members of the group. As far as Ebola is concerned, it is highly
infective. (The infective dose may be as small
as 1-10 viruses)
However, the viruses do not spread very easily through the air or by skin-to-skin contact. Hence, the potential of a disastrous outbreak is greatly reduced.
The mortality , too, is
different for the different viruses.
1) Only 2 facilities in the US ( CDC, Atlanta and USAMRIID ( previously Fort Detrick), Maryland) have the necessary safety facilities for handling such viruses.
2) The last known case of Marburg was in April 1999 . Where does the Marburg virus
disappear in between outbreaks? There must be a place where the Marburg virus
remains latent and hidden in between the periods when it is causes clinical
disease in humans.
3) Before 1999, the last known outbreak of Ebola had occurred April 1995 in Zaire. Around
240 people died.