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.
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