HLSS508250 Threat of Bioterrorism and public Health Laws Discussion

Responses should be a minimum of 250 words and include direct questions. You may challenge, support or supplement another student’s answer using the terms, concepts and theories from the required readings. Also, do not be afraid to respectfully disagree where you feel appropriate; as this should be part of your analysis process at this academic level.

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This week we read about and discuss the threat of bioterrorism and the polices/public health laws that are in place to mitigate the spread of a bioterrorist attack. Our lesson discusses a brief history on the use of infectious diseases being utilized as weapons during war and that with modern technology can prove much more deadly (Lesson 2, 2019). Engineered biological weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction with the ability to affect millions if strategically employed in a populous city. With the establishment of the DHS and the realization that bioterrorism was a threat to national security, the DHS created the Office of Health Affairs (OHA). “OHA helps communities nationwide prepare for a chemical or biological attack and build their own capacity to respond and recover” (DHS, 2019, par. 1). Additionally, the OHA coordinates with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) on preventative and outbreak planning.

In early 2015, there was a Zika virus epidemic which spread from South America into North America. By 2016 the virus continued to spread and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations, declared it a public health emergency of international concern. The DHS responded to the outbreak through coordination with the HHS and CDC by monitoring ports of entry, enhanced precautions in detention facilities, and workforce education (DHS, 2016). With CDC advisement the DHS developed an enhanced public health entry screening for travelers entering the US but the screening was never implemented for Zika (DHS, 2016). When travelers or migrants were observed to exhibit signs of illness, the US Customs and Border Protection were immediately separated from healthy people and escorted for additional medical evaluation (DHS, 2016).

If a US citizen was traveling back into the US and exhibited signs of illness, they could potentially not immediately be allowed to leave the facility if they are put under quarantine. The federal government has the power to authorize quarantine, “quarantine is authorized to prevent the spread of a limited number of communicable diseases; those diseases must be identified by Executive Order” (Mayer, 2009, p. 1057). The act of being quarantined can be perceived as a restriction of civil liberties but the action is to help the individual and prevent spreading if the illness is contagious. Without being isolated from healthy people, one individual runs the risk of spreading a potentially deadly and contagious disease. Restricting civil liberties should be a last resort when dealing with public health issues. After all preparation and preventative measures have been exhausted but have not shown significant signs of mitigating the outbreak, policies like quarantine need to be implemented.

Quarantine does not guarantee the control of the outbreak and depending on the population size could be far too difficult. “Quarantine requires collective action; quarantine is most effective when ninety percent of the affected population is compliant with the quarantine order” (Mayer, 2009, p. 1059). Unlike other security threats, bioterrorism planning requires an in-depth knowledge from a small field that includes the HHS and CDC. The other security threats are dealt with by hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers and agents which makes bioterrorism a particularly complex threat.


Department of Homeland Security. (2019). Office of Health Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.dhs.gov/office-health-affairs

Department of Homeland Security. (2016). Zika Virus: DHS Response Plan. Retrieved from: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2016/02/11/zika-virus-dhs-response-plan#

Lesson 2. (2019). Week 2: Emergency Management and Response

Mayer, E. E. (2009). Prepare for the worst: Protecting civil liberties in the modern age of bioterrorism. Journal of Constitutional Law, 11(4), 1051-1076. Retrieved from: http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jcl/vol11/iss4/6