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 Bioterrorism  Holistic-online.com

Introduction to Bioterrorism

At the time of preparing this manuscript, 3 persons have died of Anthrax related exposure in the USA (October 2001) and several thousand persons were tested for anthrax exposure. Suddenly, bioterrorism changed from a possible occurrence to real. Although much of the nation's attention is centered on anthrax at this time, authorities point out that introduction of biological agents such as small pox virus will have much larger consequences. We will take a look at the possible biological and chemical agents that may be used in bioterrorism. We will also cover the treatment and management of these attacks for the most important of these agents. 

An act of biological or chemical terrorism might range from dissemination of aerosolized anthrax spores to food product contamination.

Bacterial pathogens, nerve gas, and a lethal plant toxin (i.e., ricin), have been used in other parts of the world in biological and chemical threats. Such agents as the variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, are highly contagious and often fatal. 


The possible terrorist attacks involving chemical and biological agents can be broadly divided into overt attacks and covert attacks. 

Overt attacks are apparent immediately after the attack such as in case of bombings. Chemical terrorism acts are likely to be overt because the effects of chemical agents absorbed through inhalation or by absorption through the skin or mucous membranes are usually immediate and obvious. These attacks elicit immediate response from police, fire, and EMS personnel.

In contrast, attacks with biological agents are more likely to be covert or hidden. Covert dissemination of a biological agent in a public place will not have an immediate impact because of the delay between exposure and onset of illness (i.e., the incubation period). 

Certain chemical agents can also be delivered covertly through contaminated food or water. This was illustrated in 1999, when chickens in Belgium were unintentionally exposed to dioxin-contaminated fat used to make animal feed. Because the contamination was not discovered for months, the dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical that does not cause immediate symptoms in humans, was probably present in chicken meat and eggs sold in Europe during early 1999. This episode also demonstrates how a covert act of foodborne biological or chemical terrorism could affect commerce and human or animal health.

Related Topics:

Critical biological agents that may be used in Bioterrorism

Chemical agents that may be used in Bioterrorism

Source: "Biological and Chemical Terrorism: Strategic Plan for Preparedness and Response: Recommendations of the CDC Strategic Planning Workgroup," April 21, 2000 / 49(RR04);1-14, Centers for Disease Control, USA.

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