There is some talk on the Internet about SARS being a Russian or Chinese biological weapon. I am not particularly convinced, and I certainly don’t think it’s a helpful suggestion given that there’s plenty of worry going on at the moment. Of course it could be a biological weapon; there are plenty of research labs around the world which are capable of doing it. But just because some Russian official says he thinks it is a biological weapon doesn’t make it so (no matter how much certain conspiracy theorist webloggers would like it to be).
Consider this. Every few decades, we get hit by some new strain of influenza that kills millions (I think there was one around 1917). There’s no suggestion that they were biological weapons – of course not, because we wouldn’t have been able to manage it. And there is no reason to believe that we are any more protected from these viruses than we were before; so I see no reason to believe that it is nothing more than, say, some new mutation that has crossed the species barrier once again. Of course I can’t prove that it’s not a biological weapon, but then the burden of proof isn’t on me anyway. Still, I expect the same old nonsense when a similar virus comes along in the future.
To be honest, if you really wanted to kill a bunch of people, you just go and use old-fashioned anthrax or maybe c. botulinum toxins. Engineered diseases always struck me as a manifestly dumb way to kill people, given that in our interconnected world, chances are that it’s going to bite you on the ass just as hard as whoever you infected it with.