Bioterrorism, Public Health and the Law 
Law 801: Health Care Law Seminar
Professor Vernellia R. Randall

Deaths and Illness--A Comparative Analysis


Lesson Schedule
00: Intro to the Course
01: Intro to the Problem
02: Public Health System
03: Real Threat?
04: Public Health Law
05: Disease-Reporting
06: Quarantine
07: Model Act
08: Military Presence
09: Health Law Revisited


 Milton Leitenberg

excerpted from: Milton Leitenberg, An Assessment of the Biological Weapons Threat to the United States, "White Paper" prepared for the Conference on Emerging Threats Assessment. Biological Terrorism, at the Institute for Security Technology Studies, Dartmouth College, July 7-9, 2000.


Given the findings in the Sands-Monterey study that one single person died in the United States in the years 1900 to 1999 as a result of an act of biological or chemical terrorism, and the current discussion of biological agent terrorism as a potential mass casualty event, it is quite revealing to look at annual mortality in several public health sectors:

1. Food-borne disease incidence in the USA (US/CDC, September-October 1999)

bullet*76 million cases per year
bullet*315,000 hospitalizations per year
bullet*5,000 deaths per year

2. "Medical error" morality (US National Institute of Medicine, December 1999)

bullet*between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths per year

3. Hospital-contracted infections (US/CDC, March 27, 2000)

bullet*20,000 deaths per year
bullet(Another, possibly overlapping estimate in the July 2000 WHO report on drug-resistant organisms, gave a US mortality of 14,000 per year).

4. The 1993 cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee, a result of water pollution, sickened 400,000 people.

5. Air pollution in the US results in 50,000 deaths per year.

6. Firearms result in 35,000 deaths per year, and $4 billion in medical expenses.

The sum of the first three categories alone results in between 69,000 and 123,000 deaths per year.

These figures certainly suggest a rather enormous misallocation of priorities: the US political system can absorb roughly 100,000 deaths per year in only three related public health categories continuously, year after year, while appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars under the sudden presumption of a potential event of extremely low probability, the true likelihood of which is totally unknown. In discussions of the requirements for response to a "mass casualty biological terrorist event," analysts have defined "mass casualty" as anything between 100 and 1,000 individuals arriving at hospitals. That means that the US absorbs the mortality equivalent of between 100 and 1,000 "BW terrorist mass casualty" events per year without any qualm or problem. One might also note that individual diseases such as Tuberculosis and Malaria result in global mortalities of 2-3 million people each, per year.


Related Pages:
Home ] Up ] Bioterroism and Public Health ] Biological Agents ] Dual Use or Poor Excuse? ] CDC Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response ] Will Bioterrorism Reshape Global Public Health? ] Bioterrorism - A Renewed Public Health Threat ] A Clear and Present Danger? ] [ Deaths and Illness--A Comparative Analysis ] The Requirements to Produce Biological Agents by Non-State Groups ] Potential of Use of Biological Weapons in the United States ] WHO Recommendations for Dealing with Bioterrorism ] Emerging Infectious Disease and Public Health (pdf) ] Facts about Biological Agents ]
Subsequent Pages:
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Previous Pages:
Home ] Syllabus ] Introduction to the Course ] Introduction to the Problem ] Public Health System ] Is Bioterrorism a Real Threat? ] Public Health Law and Bioterrorism ] Disease Reporting and Police Powers ] Quarantine and Police Powers ] Model State Public Health Law ] Military Presence and Public Health ] Public Health Law - Revisited ]
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