What is Bioterrorism?
A biological attack, or bioterrorism (BT), is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people. Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack.
Anthrax is one of the most likely agents to be used because:
- Anthrax spores are easily found in nature, can be produced in a lab, and can last for a long time in the environment.
- Anthrax makes a good weapon because it could be released quietly and without anyone knowing. The microscopic spores could be put into powders, sprays, food, and water. Because they are so small, you may not be able to see, smell, or taste them.
- Anthrax has been used as a weapon before.
Bioterrorism differs from other methods of terrorism in that the effects are not always immediately apparent. An attack may be difficult to distinguish from a single case of an unusual infection or from a naturally occurring infectious disease outbreak. The first evidence of an attack may be in a hospital emergency room.
Agents that may be used as weapons of bioterrorism are classified by their threat level. These are known as Category A, B and C agents.
Category A Agents/Diseases
- Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
- Botulism (Clostriduim botulinum toxin)
- Plague (Yersinia pestis)
- Smallpox (variola major)
- Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)
- Viral hemorrhagic fevers, including
Category B Agents/Diseases
- Brucellosis (Brucella species)
- Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens
- Food safety threats (Salmonella species, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shigella)
- Glanders (Burkholderia mallei)
- Melioidosis (Burkholderia pseudomallei)
- Psittacosis (Chlamydia psittaci)
- Q fever (Coxiella burnetii)
- Ricin toxin from Ricinus communis (castor beans)
- Staphylococcal enterotoxin B
- Typhus fever (Rickettsia prowazekii)
- Viral encephalitis (alphaviruses, such as eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and western equine encephalitis])
- Water safety threats (Vibrio cholerae, Cryptosporidium parvum)
Category C Agents/Diseases
What is the role of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases?
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is committed to a 24/7 response for threats of bioterrorism reported by either local health departments in Ohio or by local, state or federal law enforcement. BID acts as a liaison between law enforcement, the ODH Laboratory and the local health department (LHD) where the threat occurs. BID staff will arrange for specimen testing at the ODH Laboratory in conjunction with law enforcement. If a true BT threat occurs, BID would keep the LHD informed so that messaging could be given to individuals that may be at risk.