UK soldiers could be getting ‘anthrax jabs’ to prepare for a potential war between the USA and North Korea and terror attacks at home.
Plans are being made to roll out anthrax vaccinations to all military personnel, according to Whitehall sources.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is considering the measures amid growing tensions between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, reports The Times.
Anthrax is a deadly disease that comes in spray or powder form and is particularly lethal when inhaled.
Plans are being made to roll out anthrax vaccinations to all UK military personnel overseas, according to Whitehall sources
It causes flu-like symptoms for a few days, which are usually followed by severe breathing problems, shock and often death.
Patricia Lewis, research director for international security at Chatham House told the newspaper Kim Jong-un is believed to have a large range of biological weapons, including anthrax.
The foreign affairs and security think tank boss also stated.there are concerns about terror organisations like ISIS and al-Qaeda using anthrax.
This week Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle were believed to be targeted with anthrax after a suspicious white powder was found on a ‘racist’ letter addressed to them.
It was intercepted by staff at London’s St James’s Palace and was eventually found to be harmless.
American troops are already vaccinated against anthrax if they are sent overseas.
Anthrax is a deadly disease that comes in spray or powder form and is particularly lethal when inhaled. Kim Jong-un is believed to have it in his arsenal of biological weapons and ISIS and al-Qaeda could be planning to use it in terror attacks too
But only a small number of specialist British troops, including those in the SAS and SBS are given the jabs.
It is not clear if a UK anthrax vaccination programme would be compulsory or not.
A voluntary programme was introduced before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but many refused the jabs over concerns about side effects.
One soldier in particular stated.side effects were so painful he stated.he would ‘rather die of anthrax than go through that again’, reports The Times.
There are ongoing concerns about illnesses triggered by the anthrax vaccine after many troops fell ill in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the newspaper: ‘We are considering expanding this vaccination, which has been given to UK armed forces personnel for decades, to make sure they are fully protected and flexible to face any potential threats wherever they emerge across an ever-changing world.’
What is anthrax and how was the infectious disease developed into a weapon for bioterrorism?
Anthrax spores have been weaponised by at least five countries: Britain, Japan, the United States, Russia and Iraq
Anthrax is the name of the potentially-deadly disease caused by the spores of bacteria Bacillus anthracis.
As the disease can survive in harsh climates, Anthrax spores have been weaponised by at least five countries: Britain, Japan, the United States, Russia and Iraq.
The disease can be contracted by touching, inhaling or swallowing spores, which can lie dormant in water and soil for years.
It is most deadly, however, when the spores are inhaled, which is why the threat of a letter containing the disease is taken very seriously by authorities.
About 80 per cent of people who inhale the spores will die, in some cases even with immediate medical intervention.
Use as a biological weapon
Anthrax’s first documented use as a weapon of warfare was by the Japanese in the 1930s, where thousands of prisoners of war were intentionally infected and died.
British trials of the disease on Gruinard Island in Scotland in 1942 severely contaminated the land for half a century, making it a no-go area until 1990.
The disease is particularly dangerous as its spores can be cultivated with minimal scientific training and special equipment.
Letters containing the deadly spores was mailed to several news outlets and the offices of two politicians in America, in what came to be known as the 2001 Anthrax attacks.
Biodefence researcher Dr Bruce Ivins (left) is the sole suspect of the 2001 Anthrax attacks, in whcih letters (right) containing the disease were mailed across the USA
As a result, 22 were infected and five people died after just a few grams who used across all the letters.
In 2008, biodefence researcher Dr Bruce Ivins was named as a suspect but committed suicide before he could face any charges.
What are the symptoms of Anthrax?
Once inside the body they become active and start producing toxins, which cause the disease and manifest and spread.
Symptoms range from blisters to shortness of breath or diarrhea, depending on how it enters the body.
The vast majority of cases are caused by skin contact. This is the least deadly form of the disease, with 75 per cent of patients surviving without treatment.
Anthrax naturally infects many species of grazing mammals such as sheep, cattle and goats, which are infected through ingestion of soil contaminated by B. anthracis spores. The spores may remain dormant for many years.
Infection generally occurs 1 to 7 days after exposure but occasionally, if inhaled, cases may present 2 to 3 months later.