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Ian Britton - Bioterrorism. What is bioterrorism?. The intentional or threatened use of viruses, bacteria, fungi, or toxins from living organisms to produce death or disease in humans, animals, or plants. Why Biological Attacks?. Easy to obtain Inexpensive to produce

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what is bioterrorism
What is bioterrorism?

The intentional or threatened use of viruses, bacteria, fungi, or toxins from living organisms to produce death or disease in humans, animals, or plants.

why biological attacks
Why Biological Attacks?
  • Easy to obtain
  • Inexpensive to produce
  • Environmental stability
  • Aerosol distribution
  • Delayed recognition/response
  • Perpetrators escape easily
  • Susceptible population
the use of biological weapons through history
The use of biological weapons through history.
  • 400 B.C.: Archers dipped arrows into the manure, blood and rotting bodies.
  • 14th Century: Bodies of bubonic plague victims were catapulted over the walls of the city of Kaffa.
  • 15th Century: Spanish contaminated French wine with the blood of leprosy victims.
  • 17th Century: A Polish General put saliva from rabid dogs into hollow artillery spheres.
  • 18th Century: Smallpox blankets were given to American Indians.
u s biological warfare program
U.S. Biological Warfare Program
  • Geneva Protocol developed in 1925
  • U.S. offensive program in 1943
  • U.S. defensive program in 1953
  • U.S. program abandoned in 1969
  • Biological Weapons Convention in 1972
  • Geneva Convention Ratified in 1975
history of biological agent use possession in the u s
History of Biological Agent Use/Possession in the U.S.


College students produced 30-40 kg of Salmonella typhi with plans to release it into the water supplies of major Midwestern cities.

history of biological agent use possession in the u s7
History of Biological Agent Use/Possession in the U.S.


Members of the Rajneesh cult sprayed Salmonella on eight local salad bars in Oregon in an attempt to influence a local election. They caused 715 cases of illness, but didn’t alter the election results.

history of biological agent use possession in the u s8
History of Biological Agent Use/Possession in the U.S.


Members of the Patriots Council plotted to kill law enforcement officers using ricin placed on the door knobs of their vehicles. The plot failed because an informant notified authorities, and the conspirators were arrested.

history of biological agent use possession in the u s9
History of Biological Agent Use/Possession in the U.S.


Larry Wayne Harris obtained “Plague” cultures from ATCC and talked openly about their potential for biological attacks. He was arrested and the vials were recovered unopened.

history of biological agent use possession in the u s10
History of Biological Agent Use/Possession in the U.S.


A disgruntled med tech brought doughnuts spiked with Shigella for her co-workers coffee break.

history of biological agent use possession in the u s11
History of Biological Agent Use/Possession in the U.S.

Multiple anthrax attacks

22 cases (+ 1 lab-acquired case)

11 inhalational cases

11 skin cases

5 deaths


agent selection considerations
Agent Selection Considerations
  • Catastrophic public health consequences
    • Mass casualties which overwhelm medical systems
    • High morbidity or mortality
    • Contagious
biological agents of highest concern
Biological Agents of Highest Concern
  • Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax)
  • Yersiniapestis (Plague)
  • Francisellatularensis (Tularemia)
  • Botulinum toxin (Botulism)
  • Variola major (Smallpox)
  • Filoviruses and Arenaviruses (Viral hemorrhagic fevers)
Most of the information on what would happen in a Bioterrorist attack is based on what we know about the natural disease.
why these agents
Why These Agents?
  • Can cause disease via aerosol route
  • Organisms fairly stable in aerosol
  • Susceptible civilian populations
  • High morbidity and mortality
  • Some with person-to-person transmission (smallpox, plague, VHF)
  • Difficult to diagnose and/or treat
  • Previous development for Biological Warfare
category a
Category A
  • Easily transmitted
  • Easily disseminated
  • High mortality rate
  • Potential for major public health impact
  • Can cause public panic and social disruption
  • Requires special action for public health preparedness
bacterial agents category a
Bacterial Agents - Category A
  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Yersiniapestis
  • Francisellatularensis
category b
Category B
  • Moderate morbidity
  • Low mortality
  • Require specific non-standard diagnostic capacity
  • Moderately easy to distribute
  • Requires enhanced disease surveillance
bacterial agents category b
Bacterial Agents - Category B
  • Brucellosis - Brucella species
  • Q Fever - Coxiellaburnetii
  • Psittacosis - Chlamydia psittaci
bacterial agents category b continued
Bacterial Agents - Category B continued
  • Glanders - Burkholderiamallei
  • Meliodiosis - Burkholderiapseudomallei
  • Typhus fever - Rickettsiaprowazekii
bacterial agents category b continued23
Bacterial Agents - Category B continued
  • Water Threats
    • Cholera -Vibriocholerae
    • Cryptosporosis - Cryptosporidium parvum (PROTOZOA)
bacterial agents category b continued24
Bacterial Agents - Category B continued
  • Food Safety Threats
    • Escherichia coli O157:H7
    • Salmonella serotype Typhimurium
    • Salmonella serotype Enteritidis
    • Shigellasonnei
    • Shigellaflexneri, dysenteriae type 1
    • SalmonellaTyphi
    • Vibriocholerae
category c
Category C
  • Newly discovered disease
  • Easily obtained
  • Easy to make and distribute
  • Potential for high morbidity and mortality
types of bioterrorist events
Types of Bioterrorist Events
  • Announced
    • (Overt)
  • Unannounced
    • (Covert)
likely scenarios
Likely Scenarios
  • Overt threat
    • anthrax letters
    • device, e.g. aerosol bomb, Heating –Air conditioning systems release
  • Covert release
    • food or water contamination, aerosol release, surface contamination, zoonotic attack
covert vs overt event
Covert vs. Overt Event


Recognition early delayed

Response early delayed

Treatment early delayed

Responders Traditional Health Care “FirstResponders” Workers

delivery systems
Delivery Systems
  • Air
    • aerosol most effective dissemination method
    • droplet size < 10 µm, 1-5 µm optimal
  • Food
  • Water
  • Skin and mucous membranes
recognition of biological attack
Recognition of Biological Attack
  • Environmental detection not feasible
  • Onset of symptoms is delayed
    • incubation periods range from days to weeks
  • Symptoms may be nonspecific
    • initial presentation mimics “flu”
  • Symptoms may be acute
    • incapacitation, paralysis, coma, death
maintain a high level of suspicion in a number of clinical situations
Maintain a high level of suspicion in a number of clinical situations:
  • A rapidly increasing disease incidence in a normally healthy population
  • An epidemic curve that rises and falls during a short period of time
  • An unusual rise in the number of people seeking care, especially with fever, respiratory, or gastrointestinal complaints
  • An endemic disease rapidly emerging at an uncharacteristic time or in an unusual pattern

Lower attack rates among people who have been indoors, compared with people who have been outdoors

  • Clusters of patients arriving from a single locale
  • Large numbers of rapidly fatal cases
  • Patient presenting with a disease that is relatively uncommon and has bioterrorism potential
  • Concurrent reports of increased animal deaths
  • Unusual age distribution
  • Atypical disease presentations
develop and use epidemiological tools
Develop and use epidemiological tools
  • Presence or lack of an appropriate exposure history
  • Travel to a location that has high-consequence disease transmission
  • Pathogens with unusual antimicrobial resistance
  • Routine surveillance and disease-reporting mechanisms
american academy of family physician suggestions
American Academy of Family Physician Suggestions
  • Know how to contact local and state health departments.
  • Maintain contacts with local health officials.
  • Maintain reference materials on the diagnosis and treatment of agents of bioterrorism.

Develop a bioterrorism response plan for your office. Be prepared to use infection control practices.

  • Know the requirements for laboratory support.
  • Be aware of proper post-exposure management for patients and health care staff.
  • Develop skills in and resources for counseling patients to minimize the psychologic consequences.
fear is the enemy
Fear is the enemy.
  • Know which of the biological warfare agents occur naturally in your area.
  • If a biological attack is identified, keep a calm face.
  • Remind people not to rush to the hospital or Doctor’s office.
  • Help family members understand the facts.
  • Do not let the news media and sensational reporting distract from accurate information.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the federal government has

spent about $50 billion to improve the way it detects

and responds to biological threats.

But progress has been limited, and some security

experts say the threat is greater than it was.

  • On April 1, 2009 a 20 year old male student from the University of North Carolina comes home to visit his family in Cayce.
  • While he is home he develops a fever. This rapidly progressed to shortness of breath, chest pain, dry cough, headache, chills and rigors, generalized body aches (in the low back), coryza, and sore throat
  • On April 5th his mother takes him to the E.R. With sever shortness of breath, chest pain and dry cough.
  • Findings on clinical examination - undifferentiatedfebrile illness with incipient pneumonia, pleuritis, and hilarlymphadenopathy.

This was 3 days after the NCAA basketball tournament sweet 16 in Charlotte.

  • What do you look for? Which organisms could it be and what additional information would you need? Who do you contact?
  • Unusual respiratory disease in its early stages, could be difficult to distinguish from a natural outbreak ofcommunity-acquired infection, especially influenza or variousatypical pneumonias.

Tularemia would be expected to have a slower progressionof illness and a lower case-fatality rate than either inhalationalplague or anthrax.

  • Plague would most likely progress very rapidlyto severe pneumonia, with copious watery or purulent sputumproduction, hemoptysis, respiratory insufficiency, sepsis, andshock.
  • Inhalational anthrax would be differentiated by itscharacteristic radiological findings of prominent symmetricmediastinal widening and absence of bronchopneumonia.
  • Anthrax patients would be expected to develop fulminating, toxic,and fatal illness despite antibiotic treatment.
  • Milder formsof inhalational tularemia could be clinically indistinguishablefrom Q fever; establishing a diagnosis of either would be problematicwithout reference laboratory testing.
  • Presumptive laboratorydiagnoses of plague or anthrax would be expected to be maderelatively quickly, although microbiological confirmation couldtake days. Isolation and identification of F tularensis usingroutine laboratory procedures could take several weeks.