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13 : Bioterrorism: a Real Modern Threat
The use of microbial agents as intentional weapons against humans, animals, and plants goes back to earliest recorded history. There are three critical elements necessary for a bioterrorism event to occur; potential perpetrators, availability of biologic agents, and technical means to disseminate these agents. The potential for bioterrorism can no longer be dismissed. There are at least six categories within the spectrum of potential perpetrators who are capable of and willing to conduct a bioterrorism attack: state-sponsored groups, insurgent rebels, doomsday/cult-type groups, nonaligned terrorists, splinter groups, and lone offenders. An ideal potential bioterrorism agent has the following six characteristics: it is inexpensive and easy to produce; can be aerosolized; survives sunlight, drying, and heat; causes lethal or disabling disease; and results in person-to-person transmission; and either it has no effective treatment or prophylaxis or none is available. Yet, there are currently many gaps in our bioterrorism preparedness activities. Recently, three groups have published documents to assist with federal, state, and local bioterrorism preparedness and response planning. Of these, the plan produced by the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command in August 2000 is the most comprehensive and detailed of all the federal planning documents produced to date. The critical components of bioterrorism planning activities are addressed. All planners of local and state preparedness and response activities should consider this document as they develop regional or statewide plans.