Protecting soldiers on the battlefield from toxins --and replicating agents--is possible if we use our combined resources effectively. Physical countermeasures such as the protective mask, protective clothing, and decontamination capabilities exist and are effective. As we improve our battlefield detection systems, early warning of our soldiers may become a reality, at least in subpopulations within our forces. These assets, unlike most medical countermeasures, are generally generic and protect against most or all of the agents. Among the medical countermeasures, vaccines are available and effective for some of the most important agents, and therapies exist for others. Because of limited resources available to develop vaccines, diagnostic methodologies, and therapies, we can field specific medical countermeasures only to a relatively small group of threat agents. Our efforts in this area must be carefully focused. A third and complementary element of our defensive program must be good intelligence. Only through knowledge of specific threat agents, delivery systems, and national capabilities can we assure the effective development and use of our physical and medical countermeasures. Finally, our renewed understanding of the real strengths and weaknesses of toxins as weapons allows us to put them in perspective in educating our soldiers, removing much of the mystique--and associated fear--surrounding toxins. Knowledge of the threat thus reduces the threat to our soldiers.
Textbook of Military Medicine: Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, p. 603-619