Biological Attack: Human Pathogens, Biotoxins, and Agricultural Threats

A biological attack is the intentional release of a pathogen (disease-causing agent) or biotoxin (poisonous substance produced by a living organism) against humans, plants, or animals. An attack against people could be used to cause illness, death, fear, societal disruption, and economic damage. An attack on agricultural plants and animals would primarily cause economic damage, loss of confidence in the food supply, and possible loss of life. It is useful to distinguish between two kinds of biological agents: 1. Transmissible agents that spread from person to person (e.g., smallpox, Ebola) or animal to animal (e.g., foot and mouth disease). 2. Agents that may cause adverse effects in exposed individuals but that do not make those individuals contagious to others (e.g., anthrax, botulinum toxin). After defining biological attack, this fact sheet presents information on the following topics: Availability of Biological Agents; How Biological Agents Could be Disseminated (e.g., airplanes, subways, U.S. mail); Impact Following the Release of a Pathogen -- Detection of Biological Attack, Finding the Cause and Source of Illness; What is the Danger -- Impact on Human Health, Dose Response in Humans, Differences in Intentional vs. Natural Outbreaks, Spread of Disease, Psychological Impact; What Should People Do to Protect Themselves -- Medical Treatment, Controlling the Spread of Contagious Diseases; What are the Long-Term Consequences -- Monitoring and Clean-up, Long-Term Health Consequences Following Exposure, Economic Impact of an Agricultural Attack.

  • Corporate Authors:

    Department of Homeland Security

    United States Coast Guard
    Washington, DC  United States  20593

    National Academy of Sciences

    2101 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20418
  • Publication Date: 2005


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Tables;
  • Pagination: 6p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01000405
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 22 2005 1:21PM