What is bioterrorism?

A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other agents used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These agents are generally found in nature, but  they can also be manipulated to increase their ability to cause disease, make them resistant to current medicines, or to increase their ability to be spread into the environment. It is possible for terrorists to use biological agents as they can be extremely difficult to detect and do not cause illness for several hours to several days.[i]


What are potential bioterrorism threat agents?[ii]

Category A Agents (Highest threat to national security)

Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)

Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin)

Plague (Yersinia pestis)

Smallpox (variola major)

Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)

Viral hemorrhagic fevers (filoviruses [e.g., Ebola, Marburg] and arenaviruses [e.g., Lassa, Machupo])


What roles do policymakers play in bioterrorism?

The threat of bioterrorism, which has been long ignored and denied, has heightened over the past few years.[iii]  Policymakers should recognize that a bioterrorism threat is not one-dimensional. They must consider four key elements of the threat:

  • Who (the actor)
  • What (the agent)
  • Where (the target)
  • How (the mode of attack)

The interaction of these components will help to determine the impact of a bioterrorism attack. Due to finite financial resources, policymakers will have to make difficult choices and assess where focus should be placed to build the capacity of the public health system to make it capable of rapidly and accurately detecting and assessing a large scope of bioterrorism scenarios.[iv]


(Source: CDC/ Taronna Maines)



Ready or Not? 2011

This report by Trust for America’s Health assesses whether a state is prepared for bioterrorism.  The report finds key programs that detect and respond to bioterrorism, new disease outbreaks, and natural or accidental disasters that are at risk as a result of federal and state budget cuts.

Response Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Public Health Directors - Version 2.0

The National Response Framework (NRF) is a guide to how the nation conducts all-hazards response. It is built upon scalable, flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures to align key roles and responsibilities across the nation, linking all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.



Region G Public Health Collaborative

The Collaborative consists of nine local public health agencies in Southern Missouri. Region G began in 2003 under a bioterrorism contract with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Region G Public Health Collaborative aims to promote and protect health and prevent disease in their population by using all available resources to build capacity to assure their communities have the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.

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