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Sunday, November 4, 2018


A victim of monkeypox disease

Monkeypox is one of the most recent dangerous diseases to ease their way into the UK. This latest outbreak raises the question, are diseases the biggest risk to national borders?

Officers securing national borders and security services face a number of threats every day.

Among them, there are both visible threats, such as potential terrorist attacks, and invisible ones, such as diseases, that can be carried across borders by malicious or innocent individuals.

The hard to detect viruses can make their way into the country without alerting security services to their dangerous potential.

Ultimately, diseases then become a major threat, as they carry with them the ability to spread rapidly and kill thousands.

How threatening are diseases to national borders?

The very nature of viruses makes it difficult for border patrol forces to identify those carrying them, resulting in national outbreaks becoming an international threat.

At the moment, Measles is sweeping over Europe, with a total of 30,746 cases confirmed in Ukraine alone.

Other countries in the EU, including Italy and the UK, have seen an increased number of cases sprouting again, despite the disease being on the edge of being eradicated only decades ago.

What contributed to the return of Measles is an increasingly growing anti-vax movement, which in Italy is currently seeing the populist government debating whether to keep a certain number of vaccinations, including the one against Measles, mandatory to toddlers.

In the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has recognized the risk posed by communicable diseases and the potential for a pandemic.

PHE mentions in the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan 2014 that diseases are a major national risk.

The report said: “PHE’s first function is to fulfill the Secretary of State’s duty to protect the public’s health from infectious diseases and other public health hazards.

“The threat from pandemic influenza remains the top national risk and PHE has a core and critical role working with its local and national partners, in preparing for and responding to the influenza pandemic.”

The most recent pandemic was recorded in 2009

The Swine Flu, also known as H1N1 which originated in China, was able to cross the UK borders and kill 457 people across the country, showing how easily a disease can take hold of Britain.

A total of 203,000 people died worldwide during the outbreak, which led to flights being grounded and people with suspected infection barred from entering the country in a bid to stop the contagion.

The World Health Organisation’s weekly epidemiological record - which accounts for risks from diseases across the globe - showed that once people were infected, a disease could extend its roots and evolve.

Penned by world health experts, the report read: “The clinical spectrum of disease caused by new influenza A (H1N1) virus infection is broad and may evolve, especially when infections occur in vulnerable populations.”

What are the risks posed by bioterrorism?

Bioterrorism sees diseases used as weapons, releasing viruses under the radar which can cause massive damage.

A famous example of bioterrorism is the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, commonly known as anthrax.

In 2001, anthrax was distributed in a powdered form via the US postal system, infecting 22 people, five of whom died.

Anthrax can be easily distributed, as spores are microscopic and can be effective when added in powders, sprays, food, and water.

Similar diseases can prove among the most dangerous to national security, as they are easily concealed, and authorities are much less likely to look for them compared to other threats like bombs or knives.

Source: UK Sunday Express - by Liam Doyle


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