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Monday, December 15, 1997 Published at 23:06 GMT



Despatches

US forces to be inoculated against anthrax
image: [ Defence Secretary William Cohen shows amount of anthrax needed to kill half Washington ]
Defence Secretary William Cohen shows amount of anthrax needed to kill half Washington

The Pentagon has announced that all American servicemen and women will be inoculated against anthrax, the biological bacteria. According to BBC Washington correspondent, Tom Carver, the Pentagon has decided to initiate the programme amidst growing concerns about the possible use of anthrax and other biological agents as weapons by nations such as Iraq

Inoculating every one of America's one-and-a-half million servicemen and women is going to take well over a year. The Pentagon has been deliberating about whether to go ahead with the programme for some time.

It hesitated because of the possibility that inoculations received by soldiers during the Gulf War could have been to blame for Gulf War syndrome, but in the end it decided that the risk of possible attack from a weapon containing anthrax was now sufficient to justify the programme. Intelligence analysts here believe that the threat of chemical and biological warfare is growing all the time, particularly against American troops stationed abroad in places like Saudi Arabia.

They believe that countries like Iraq and Libya, who might want to attack America, see these weapons as an increasingly viable option. Anthrax is considered to be the most dangerous biological weapon, partly because it's relatively cheap to cultivate and can easily be put in a warhead or a bomb, and also because it would cause widespread disruption, for once an area is contaminated with anthrax it's very difficult to get rid of from the soil.

The vaccine is well established; around a third of the American troops in the Gulf War received the inoculation.
 





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