Biological Agent and Diseases (Bioterrorism)

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Bioterrorism is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs generally found in nature, that is used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Agents can be spread through the air, in water, or in food. They can be modified to increase their ability to cause disease, to multiply in the environment, or resist current medications. Terrorists may use biological agents because they are extremely hard to detect and they do not cause illness for several hours or and some, like anthrax, cannot.

Bioterrorism has been made a national priority. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with state and local health departments to identify and respond to bioterrorism.

Bioterrorism Agent Categories:

There are three categories of bioterrorism agents. They are separated according to how easily the agent can be spread and the severity of illness of death they cause. Category A agents are considered the highest risk and Category C agents are considered emerging threats for disease.

Biological Agent List of Categories

Category A agents are high priority agents that include organisms or toxins that pose the highest risk to the public and national security because:

  • They can be easily spread or transmitted from person to person.
  • They result in high death rates and have the potential for major public health impact.
  • They might cause public panic and social disruption.
  • They require special action for public health preparedness.

The following are Category A agents and the links will provide information from the CDC.

What You Can Do to Prepare for Bioterrorism?

The CDC and the American Red Cross have provided answers to questions and advice on steps you can take to prepare for a bioterrorist attack. For preparedness information guidelines, please see Prepareness Today: What You Need to Do?