Biological Threats Print

A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can cause illness and disease. Many of these agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin, or be ingested. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, do not produce contagious disease; others, such as the smallpox virus, can result in highly infectious diseases that are easily transmitted from person to person.


In the event of a Biological Threat:


Biological Threat Visual Guide

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Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may not be immediately obvious. Most likely reports of the attack will stem from a pattern of unusual illness or a large influx of affected people seeking medical attention. It is most likely that in the event of an attack the best sources for information will be emergency radio and television broadcasts although the possibility exists that you may be contacted by telephone or visited by emergency response workers. In the event of a biological attack, public heath officials may not immediately be able to provide you with information. It will take time to determine exactly what biological agent has been used, how it should be treated, and the extent of the exposure. In the event of an attack, monitor the news outlets (i.e. TV, radio, Internet) for the following information:

  • Are you in the group or area the authorities consider to in danger?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of the biological agent used?
  • Are medications or vaccines being distributed?
  • If so, where? Who should get them?
  • Where should you seek emergency medical care if you become sick?


During a declared biological emergency:

  • If you or a family member becomes sick, be suspicious.
  • Do not assume, however, that you should go to the hospital emergency room, or that the symptoms are necessarily the result of the biological agent. The symptoms of many common illnesses may overlap so do not rush to conclusions.
  • Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs and seek medical advice.
  • Consider if you are in the exposed group or area.
  • If your symptoms match those described and you are in the group considered at risk, immediately seek emergency medical attention.


If you are potentially exposed:

  • Follow instructions of doctors and other public health officials.
  • If the disease is contagious expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment. You may be advised to stay away from others or even deliberately quarantined.
  • For non-contagious diseases, expect to receive medical evaluation and treatment.


If you become aware of an unusual or suspicious substance nearby:

  • Quickly get away.
  • Protect yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of dense-weave cotton material that can filter the air but still allow breathing. Examples include two to three layers of cotton such as a T-shirt, handkerchief or towel. Otherwise, several layers of tissue or paper towels may help.
  • Wash with soap and water.
  • Contact authorities.
  • Watch TV, listen to radio, or check the Internet for official news and information.
  • If you become sick, seek emergency medical attention.