What is Bioterrorism?

After the occurrence of September 11th, more people have been asking of how they can protect themselves against bioterrorism. But what exactly is bioterrorism? Also referred to as biological warfare, bioterrorism may be defined as the intentional release of bacteria, viruses or germs with the main intention of killing or sickening people, livestock and crops. Terrorists can use different ways to achieve this. They can use explosives, aerosol sprays, through food or water, or via injection or absorption into the body.


Is Bioterrorism Controllable?


The use of the biological weapons has been used by most terrorists because it is very cheap to produce and has a potential of causing very serious adverse effects to the population as compared to other high-tech equipment or missiles. Bioterrorism is very different from other forms of terrorism because its effects are not evident immediately. It may be difficult to differentiate a naturally occurring event from bioterrorism. To diagnose if really someone has been affected by biological agents, a test has to be done by a qualified medical practitioner, checking of the resting heart rate and exercise, to help treat and prevent the spreading of the biological disease. In the event that someone has been exposed, he or she will be subjected to antibiotics to eliminate the disease from the body. 


What are some of the agents used in bioterrorism?


Anthrax – experts believe that one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack is the bacteria that causes anthrax, called Bacillus anthracis. This bacteria can be manufactured easily in laboratories and is capable of surviving in the environment for long periods of time. Due to its flexibility, it can be released in food, water, sprays or powder. There have been anthrax attacks in the past where a number of people have died.


Smallpox – this is another potential agent which can be used in bioterrorism. What makes one of the most dangerous agents is that it can be passed from one person to another. If terrorists may get access to smallpox, it would be deadly because it spreads quickly and easily among people.


Cholera – Cholera is a very severe gastrointestinal disease and has a potential of being used in bioterrorism. Since it doesn’t spread easily from one person to another, the only way it can be used effectively is adding it to a key water body.


What to do if bioterrorism takes place


If the agent has been released via the air, the first and most important thing you can do is removing your clothes and washing your body thoroughly. Some biological agents can’t penetrate the skin. However, it’s very important that you shower with water and soap to remove most of the agents from your skin. If you’ve ingested or inhaled the agent, decontaminating using water and soap may not be very helpful but you can isolate yourself to prevent exposure to coworkers and family members. Also, if the agent has been released and you don’t know if you’ve been exposed, use a gas mask to prevent inhaling the harmful agent.


It’s very important for the general public to stay alert for any signs of bioterrorism. A biological attack has the potential of killing or harming a lot of people. The earlier it’s detected, the better the chances of controlling it and treating the people infected.


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