Bioterrorism focus shifts to East Africa

April 13, 2011 at 9:00 PM

WASHINGTON, April 13 (UPI) -- A 20-year U.S. effort to secure and destroy Cold War-era weapons of mass destruction has been expanded to guard against bioterrorism in East Africa.

An article in the weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society says the new focus of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda arises from a realization that some of the world's deadliest diseases -- Ebola, Marburg and Rift Valley Fever viruses -- occur naturally in Africa. The region's political instability raises concerns about the possibility that terrorists could employ those deadly microbes.

The threat reduction program, which began in the former Soviet Union, where the primary concern was nuclear weapons, is now being expanded to confront the threat of bioterrorism in other regions of the world, the article said.

U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-sponsor of the legislation creating the threat reduction program in 1991, visited Kenya and Uganda last fall, the article said.

"Just one of the deadly viruses I witnessed could, if in the wrong hands, cause death and economic chaos," he said.

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