Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick.
There are three basic groups of biological agents that could likely be used as weapons: bacteria, viruses and toxins. Biological agents can be dispersed by spraying them into the air, person-to-person contact, infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water.
A biological attack may or may not be immediately obvious. In most cases local health care workers will report a pattern of unusual illness or there will be a wave of sick people seeking emergency medical attention. The public would be alerted through an emergency radio or TV broadcast, or some other signal used in your community, such as a telephone call or a home visit from an emergency response worker.
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a biological threat:
The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine exactly what the illness is, how it should be treated, and who is in danger.
Follow these guidelines during a biological threat:
Pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand.
The basic public health procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease. It is important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a complete list of potential agents/diseases and appropriate treatments.