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 among people.
Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may happen secretly and may not be easy to spot.
Healthcare workers will need to recognize unusual patterns of illnesses and match the symptoms of early victims with a particular biological agent.
Most people will learn about a bioterrorist attack through information they hear or read from emergency and health leaders.
Should a bioterrorism event happen, listen to what emergency and public health workers tell you to do. Your cooperation is very important.
In the event of a biological attack:
Watch TV, listen to the radio, read the newspaper or check the Internet for official news including the following:
- What group or area the authorities consider to be in danger
- The signs and symptoms of the disease
- If medications or vaccines are being distributed...if so, where and who should get them
- Where to seek emergency medical care if you become sick
What to do to protect yourself and your family:
- Practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs.
- Report any unusual symptoms or illnesses right away to your doctor.
If you know a number of people who have unusual symptoms or illness or who are sick at unusual times of the year, you may report these to your local health department.
There are many kinds of gas masks, but no one type protects against all chemicals and germs.
Because a chemical or biological attack almost certainly will be a surprise, a gas mask would need to be worn 24 hours a day to offer good protection.
Gas masks themselves also present some risks when used, especially to people with certain breathing problems.