Bio-Terrorism : How Much Are We Prepared?

In the evening, when I returned home from office. Then I heard my wife saying "Jaldi Jaldi Dak dekh lo, Phir Bazar Jana hai mithai lene ke liye'kal Pooja hai" ( "Check your mails immediately as we have to go to market to purchase sweets for tomorrow's festival"). Tired with the usual office work and expecting a cup of tea , I sat on the chair, saw my wife busy in getting ready for the market and no signs of preparing tea for me. Any way I scanned the table and skimmed through the postal mail, which was lying on the table. There were around seven envelops and one postcard delivered by the postal department. But out of all the mail, one envelop drew my attention as it was big , thick, stiff, unusual mail envelop and my name on that was written after striking off several other names and also I couldn't see the name or address of the sender. To add to my suspicion was that the postal stamp on the envelope was also torn off. I got preoccupied with the terror that, this suspicious looking envelope must be containing the dreaded Anthrax bacteria and thought that my home was also struck by bio terrorism. Recently, I read that usually Anthrax is spread by means of a bacterium spores. It is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus Anthracis. Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic lower vertebrates (cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes, and other herbivores), but it can also occur in humans when they are exposed to bacteria. But in the biological warfare the bacterium of Anthrax are being spread in the form of powder by mailing it to the person to be infected. 

I was thinking, in the meantime my wife brought the tea as she is true Indian wife and knows what her husband needs after returning from the office. And she put the cup on the same table. I, without wasting any time asked her weather she has touched the mail. With a frowned face she said "no I invited the postman inside the bedroom and he put all the mails on this table'. Obviously, I received it from the postman on the door and put it here and our son has thrown all the envelops on the bed, then I took it from him and put it back on the table again". As I was already pre-occupied with the fear of Anthrax entering into our house, her words pulled the ground from under my feet. So the whole family gets infected? 'I saw the cup of tea as it could also been Anthrax laced. As I was having a very little knowledge about Anthrax and how it spreads, I was making so many theories in my mind. I was thinking of the poor postman too who has delivered this mail and the channel through which it has been passed. It must have infected the other envelops it touched and the hands through which it had passed before getting delivered to my wife and then my son'.Oh My God. 

I was into tizzy state, panicked, hemmed and hawked as I was just passing through the situation, which I never thought of and nor does any other Indian like me. I was not aware that whether this bacterium is communicable or not. Because we are not taught about anything about the communicable diseases. Even the persons who have completed their graduation from Indian universities are not aware of the communicable diseases and how to prevent them and what to do if you or somebody in your family is contracted with the disease'nor any first aid training is given in the school or colleges. I was thinking this has to be made mandatory in the schools instead of spending money on teaching "Vedic Astrology" in the universities.

Then my wife's annoyed voice shook me when she asked "why I'm not drinking tea and all the mail is still unopened on the table' I'm ready now. Let's move". Then immediately I stood up and with my presence of mind I brought the DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) powder, which is used to disinfect and was kept at home for killing the insects. I sprinkled on the whole table and the on the cup of tea and then sensitized my wife about the situation. She was also shocked and got unnerved. Out of my little knowledge about the dreaded bacterium I asked her to wash herself and our son and change the clothes. 

My brain and heart were pounding while my wife and son were getting showers. I immediately rang up my colleague who lives nearby and told him about all the things, which happened and pleaded for his help. When he came to know about all this , he said that he is not feeling well so he won't be able to come and suggested me to call police. Frightened by the dreaded attack I called up the police station. And the help came in the form of a single cop , who came on the motorbike and asked what is the matter. As I told each and everything over the phone but he wanted to listen again from my mouth and note it down on the register which he brought along, with my signatures. I completed all the formalities and then he asked me to show that envelope and scolded me for sprinkling the DDT on that envelope as according to him it could have destroyed the evidence. Then he made phone call and called the team of the cops'which arrived at my house within ten minutes. All the cops were naked handed and it was obvious that they were not prepared to handle the situation.

I was getting tense and anxious as the time was passed. But the cops were not doing anything and I wanted to get the medical treatment immediately. Then one "brave" cop picked up the suspicious envelope with naked hands and put into the bag, which they borrowed from me. Then within no time they had taken away the bag containing the envelope and we went to the hospital instead of market to get examined and given samples at the hospital. The results of the samples were expected next morning.

I contacted the police after I returned from the hospital, then I came to know that the envelope is to be given to the laboratory, which was closed because of festival holiday, and that envelope was still lying in the police station. I was thinking that in the country like India which is worst hit by terrorism, why the proper training is not given to the cops or the why not the task force is made to fight bio terrorism. Yeah I do remember I read somewhere that Government has constituted a task force especially to fight bio terrorism and chemical weapons which will reach the spot and do the needful I mean disinfections and other things, but can that task force be approached everywhere in all towns and villages. Because mail can go anywhere as we are lucky enough to have good strong postal network and have post offices in each nook and corner of India. Are the postal employees have been suitably trained to take precautions or to do the crisis management in the event of some suspicious mail. I feel every citizen of India , literate or illiterate must be trained to fight not only bio terrorism but all kind of terrorism'so that we can make this country free of terrorism. If all the persons are made aware of their right to live and to fight terrorism then and then only we can remove this from our earth. I suspect that swerving from TADA to POTO will serve the purpose. 

After a sleepless night on that day, then the next morning I was waiting for my clock needles to reach eight 'o clock as by eight I was to get the results of the samples I have given to the hospital laboratory. So the time was up and I called up the laboratory and they told me that there was no anthrax in the samples' that was a great relief to me. But I was thinking, should that envelope was containing the Anthrax bacterium in reality then the ill trained postal staff and the cops would have contaminated their premises and dozens of their own personals. But thank God it was not Anthrax or the other bacterium in that envelope and it was somebody who made mischief with me. But one thing is clear that we are still not ready to fight bio terrorism' now the Anthrax is known as a bio weapon, but it can come in any other form too.  


More by :  Ritesh Jhamb

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