Biowarfare is the use of biological pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins derived from living organisms to kill or incapacitate one's enemies.

So, from poisoned arrows (Scythians, and much later in history, the Viet Cong guerrillas), to poisoned wells (Sparta, Persia, Rome and others) to bombs with deadly bacteria (Japan, United States, Soviet Union and Iraq), the intentional use of biowarfare has been around for centuries.

During the siege of the city-state of Athens by the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War a devastating epidemic broke out which killed thousands of Athenians. The famous historian Thucydides, writing between 431 B.C. and 404 B.C. reported,
"it was supposed that Sparta poisoned the wells."
Even though Sparta won the Peloponnesian War, it's reputation was destroyed.

Disease has always killed many more people and soldiers than bullets, but deliberately using disease organisms to kill off your enemies has always been considered evil.  In the history of our own country, it is estimated that 70% or more of native Americans were whiped out due to smallpox and other diseases brought over by the Spanish, French, and English explorers.  Although this was very likely UNINTENTIONAL, revision historians seem to be claiming not only was it intentional but the fault of the Americans.  But note that the vast majority of devastation to the tribes occurred long before the American Revolution in the nearly 300 years between 1492 and 1789 when Washingon become president.

On This Page:

A little bit about biological warfare, which is related to certain animals diseases and by extension with veterinarians.

Veterinarians, who now act as sentinels for anthrax, mad cow, and other diseases that would cause serious economic or life threatening havoc and terror in our country.

A Short History
of Biological Warfare and it's association with veterinary medicine

As I edit this page (Sept 2014) ebola is in the news due to a major outbreak in Western Africa and a possible outbreak in the United States.  As a biological weapons agent, the Ebola virus is feared for its high case-fatality rate.

Reports suggest that the Ebola virus was researched and weaponized by the former Soviet Union’s biological weapons program and the Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo reportedly sent members to Zaire during an outbreak to harvest the virus.
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Disease in War

Just 1 week after the Islamic attacks on our country on September 11, 2001
letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to the FBI, the ensuing investigation became "one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement".

September 11, 2001 was not a bio warfare attack, but soon after 9-11 there was a bio scare involving anthrax.  Veterinarians were invovled in both sitiuations.  During 9-11 as volunteer aid workers for all the rescue dogs and after the anthrax scare as sentinels for any hint of the disease in livestock or pets.  The SPCA mobile spay-neuter veterinary hospital bus below was brand new in September 2001 and first used not as a spey neuter bus but rather for an emergency animal hospital near the world trade center disaster.   Many other veterinarians set up aid stations to handle all the cuts, scrapes, dehydration, soot, and respiratory problems of the search and rescue dogs.
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Women & Minorities in Veterinary Medicine 

A very interesting profile of the very first female veterianry students from Cornell's website

Wars that started because of pigs   

The interesting battle against Hoof and Mouth Disease on the Mexican Border,   
Black Leg Disease, and Anthrax

A short history of Biological Warfare

History of Antibiotics including the critical role played by the Pfizer Company

A little history about some milestones in treating heart disease

Veterinary History of South Carolina

A history of the Pet Food Industry

xth Century B.C.
One of the earliest reported uses of bioterrorism. Assyrians poison enemy wells with rye ergot, a fungus that causes convulsions if ingested.

Plague breaks out in the Tartar army during its siege of Kaffa (at present-day Feodosia in Crimea). Attackers hurl the corpses of plague victims over the city walls, causing an epidemic that forces the city to surrender. Some infected Kaffa residents who left the city may have inadvertently started the Black Death pandemic.

During the French and Indian wars, it's suspected British forces distributed smallpox-laden blankets to native American Indians who were loyal to the French.

German scientist Robert Koch proves that microorganisms cause infectious diseases by injecting anthrax spores into mice. The mice contract the disease.

Almost immediately, federally accredited veterinarians, including me, are getting crash courses to refresh us about Anthrax and other possible diseases that might be used by terrorists.  It was while studying about anthrax that I learned that germ warfare has been around since the beginning of recorded history which is interesting since nobody seemed to believe in germs until the modern era.

The ancients poisoned the wells of their enemies with the bodies of animals and humans who had died of epedemic diseases.

The most famous plague in history... known as the black death and responsible for killing off 30-40% of the population in Europe in the middle 1300's ... and probaly a major factor in starting the rebirth known as the Renaissance started because the Tartars were besieging the Genoan trading outpost of Caffa (Kaffa) on the Cimean coast in 1346 when plaque broke out among them. 

Turning this catastrophic disease into a weapon, the Tartars lobbed the dead with catapults over the city walls...and the poor Genoans fled by ship back to Genoa... taking the plaque with them from whence the Black Death spread throughout Europe.

During The French and Indian Wars (1750's) the British, or at least a few British commanders, probably intentionally, used blankets to spread smallpox among the American Indians, knowing they were especially susceptible to this disease. 

The same disease wiped out much of the South American Indians making the Spanish conquest of South America easy, although there is no evidence that the Spanish infected the native peoples on purpose as the British did.

In the Great War, the Germans tried to infect Romanian Sheep destined for export to Russia with anthrax!  

And the French likewise tried to infect German horses with glanders.

In 1915, Dr Dilger, a German resident of Washington DC,  secretly infected horses, mules, and cows being shipped to the Allies with anthrax that he produced in his own house. 

He succeeded in infecting several hundred
military personnel in the process.  The story of
Dr Anton Dilger is interesting. 

His father, an immigrant from Germany like so many other
soldiers in our Civil War, won the Medal of Honor
for his outstanding service at the Battle of Chancellorsville

The future doctor Dilger was born in Virginia,in
the 1880's and sent back to Germany when he
was 9 years old to be educated.  He was later
trained as a physician in Heidelberg and Munich.
He received his doctorate summa cum laude
in 1912.

There are unsubstantiated reports that Dilger
served as a surgeon in the Bulgarian Army
during the Balkan War (1912–1913), that he
served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, that he
carried the rank of colonel in the Imperial
German Army Medical Corps, and that he
directed hospitals for the German Red Cross.

By the time World War I began, Dilger was in Germany, but he returned to the United States in 1915 with cultures of anthrax and glanders with the intention of biological sabotage on behalf of the German government's biological sabotage officer Rudolf Nadolny. The U.S. was then neutral, but Germany wanted to prevent neutral countries from supplying Allied forces with livestock, and the fact that Dilger had a US passport from 1908 onward made it easy for him to travel to and from America. Along with his brother Carl, Dilger established a laboratory in the Chevy Chase district north of Washington, DC in which cultures of the causative agents of anthrax and glanders—Bacillus anthracis and Burkholderia mallei—were produced. A 1941 report reveals that the bacteria were to be painted onto the nostrils of horses.

In America, Baltimore stevedores who were at first recruited by German officers to plant incendiary devices among ships and wharves were eventually given bottles of liquid culture with orders to inoculate horses near Van Cortland Park. The stevedores claimed to have done the deed with rubber gloves and needles.

The U.S. biological sabotage program is estimated to have ended sometime in late 1916, after which Anton returned to Germany. Upon his return to America, Dilger found himself under suspicion of being a German agent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and fled to Mexico.

Dilger eventually traveled to Madrid, Spain, where, ironically, he became a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic dying in 1918

In the decades prior to World War ll, the Japanese empire controlled much of Asia killing MILLIONS, especially in Nanking. Further north, in Manchuria, they also developed (Unit 731, 1937) and experimented with the largest scale biological warfare programs in history... using and killing thousands of conquered Chinese people in Manchuria as guinea pigs.

Shortly after WWI, towards the end of the influenza epidemic which claimed more lives than WWI did, the Post Office fashioned paddles with embedded spikes and paddled all of the quarantined mail, perforating it.
Then, the mail was shuttled to large fumigators which would kill any mail-borne influenza

The Japanese also infected the wells and rivers of China with typhoid and chloera, which led to God knows how many deaths...
including at least 1700 of their own Japanese soilders.
The Spanish Flu spread across the entire world killing at least 25 MILLION people... more than both world wars combined
In France, Louis Pasteur develops the first successful vaccine to prevent anthrax in animals.

A plague epidemic in China and Manchuria follows reported overflights by Japanese planes dropping plague-infected fleas.
1918-1920  Postal workers, police, nurses, and anyone dealing with the public wore masks in hopes of not getting the virus that killed 25 MILLION PEOPLE.
Gruinard Island, off the coast of Scotland, is the subject of a biological warfare experiment when the British military drop bombs loaded with anthrax spores. The contamination of the island with viable anthrax spores was so great that in 1986 it had to be decontaminated with 280 tons of formaldehyde and 2,000 tons of seawater. The island is now declared fully decontaminated.
The U.S. begins an offensive biological program at Camp Detrick, Md. pictured above.
Five thousand bombs filled with Bacillus anthracis spores are produced.
After the war, the scientists at Fort Detrick begin developing countermeasures such as vaccines, to protect troops from biological warfare.
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was signed in London, Washington and Moscow on April 10, 1972. The four-page agreement banned the development and production of biological weapons, and the means of delivering them. ...

President Nixon had already signed an executive order stopping all offensive biological weapon research and production in 1969.
Like so many treaties, new biological weapons treaty was very weak and more for show than substance.
It lacked on-site inspection mechanisms, because the Soviets had refused to accept any.  And it did not prohibit research if carried out for defensive purposes. ...
Nixon had little faith in the new treaty. He was reluctant to even attend the signing ceremony. On the day he signed it, Nixon privately told Kissinger it was a “silly biological warfare thing which doesn’t mean anything,”  By this he meant he didn't trust the Russians to adhere to the agreement.  All stockpiles of biological agents and munitions in the United States were destroyed.
Iraq is one of the signatory countries to sign the accord... and then went on to use chemical toxins on 15 separate ocassions during their war with Iran in the 1980's and against their own minorities.  Huge amounts of chemical weapons were captured and destroyed by the Americans in 1991 after President Bush senior defended Kuwait in the First Gulf War.  Also found was evidence of research in to anthrax, botulism, and other toxins.
The city above is modern day Sverdlovsk in central Russia.  It used to be called Yekaterinburg.  In 1979, just a few years after signing the biological and toxin weapons agreement, it became obvious that Russia continued bio warfare research when anthrax spores... later confirmed by our Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to be at least 4 different strains of anthrax... were accidentally released killing an unknown number of people... but at least 66 confirmed.

The Rajneeshee cult, followers of Baghwan Sri Rajneesh, contaminates salad bars in an Oregon town with salmonella. More than 750 people become seriously ill. The group was trying to influence a local election by incapacitating voters.

The Aum Shinrikyo cult releases the nerve agent sarin in the Tokyo subways, killing 12 and sickening thousands. The group attempted on at least 10 occasions to release biological warfare agents in aerosol form.
1991 American troops are vaccinated for anthrax prior to the Persian Gulf War and trained for chemical, gas, and biological combat situations.

Tularemia is yet another nasty disease spread by ticks and biting flies to pets and people ... and not a very common veterinary problem ... but it was discovered to spread rapidly among a population of animals or people if made into an aresol.
Tularemia   ... also known as rabbit fever, deer fly fever, and Ohara's fever

is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis which is found in rabbits, beavers, and muskrats.
This germ, when passed to you from a tick or deer biting fly from your pet can cause serious glandular swellings.
Cats that hunt rabbits might very well be carriers of ticks full of rabbit blood that would then jump off in the home exposing humans to the disease.  But the reason Tularemia is listed on this page about bio warfare is because the germ is very rapidly spread to humans if the germis aerosolized.  Russia, Britain, Canada, and the United States all worked to create weaponized tularemia after World War ll
North Korea is suspected of producing Tuberculosis. The world’s second biggest infectious killer. Tuberculosis may infect any part of the body, but most commonly occurs in the lungs (known as pulmonary tuberculosis). E