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Bioterrorism Agents and Fact Sheets

What is Bioterrorism?

Bioterrorism, or a biological attack, is the intentional release of germs or other biological substances such as toxins and poisons that can cause illness and death. The possibility also exists for a terrorist to use new, genetically-engineered agents that are harder to treat.

Biological Agents

The Centers for Disease Control separates bioterrorism agents into three categories - A, B, or C - depending on how easily they can be spread and the severity of illness or death they cause.

Category A agents include organisms and toxins that pose the highest risk to the public and national security for the following reasons:

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

Category A agents include:

Category B agents are moderately easy to disseminate and result in moderate morbidity and low mortality rates. Examples include food safety threats, brucellosis, Q fever, and ricin toxin.

Category C agents are emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination in the future, such as Nipah virus or hantavirus.

Additional Fact Sheets and Information

Handling Suspicious Packages
Anthrax – Cold/Flu Comparison
Food Safety Threats
Case Definitions for Health Care Professionals