Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uganda is the Front Line if Bioterrrorism Threat

The laboratories of Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture, Animals, Industries, and Fisheries in sleepy Entebbe are hiding a secret. At the end of a hallway there is a room. And in that room is a refrigerator. The refrigerator looks like any other. It isn't locked. It isn't under constant surveillance. But this refrigerator holds something dangerous. This refrigerator is where the anthrax is kept.

Senator Lugar (R), from Indiana, and several other pentagon officials visited the Ministry as well as Uganda Virus Research Institute, where another refrigerator says "restricted access" but according to the doctors there this hardly means it is protected.

The Pentagon officials consider this to be the front lines of bioterrorism threat, thus the officials want to tighten security in labs like these across East Africa. The militant Islamic group, Shabab, claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings in Uganda that claimed the lives of fans as they gathered to watch the World Cup. This has refocused Western efforts to maintain security in East Africa as a way of maintaining security.

Anthrax in Uganda has killed hundreds of hippopotamuses in recent years. A Dutch tourist died from Marbourg disease after visiting a cave in a national park in 2008. 20 people died in 2007 from an Ebola outbreak. This all stems from Uganda's warm, wet climate, making it a breeding ground for pathogens.

Ugandan officals claim that it is the decentralization of the government in recent years that has spread the bureaucracy thin and made it nearly impossible to track, protect, and secure all samples of deadly viruses.

By Margaret Nunne

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