Bioterrorism

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Bioterrorism is terrorism involving the intentional release or dissemination of biological agents (bacteria, viruses, or toxins), that may be in a naturally-occurring or in a human-modified form. For the use of this tactic in warfare, see biological warfare.

Contents

Definition

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, other germs (agents) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These agents are typically found in nature, but it is possible that they could be changed to increase their ability to cause disease, make them resistant to current medicines, or to increase their ability to be spread into the environment. Biological agents can be spread through the air, through water, or in food. Terrorists may use biological agents because they can be extremely difficult to detect and do not cause illness for several hours to several days. Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some, like anthrax, cannot.[1]

Bioterrorism is an attractive weapon because biological agents are relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain or produce, can be easily disseminated, and can cause widespread fear and panic beyond the actual physical damage they can cause.[2] Military leaders, however, have learned that, as a military asset, bioterrorism has some important limitations; it is difficult to employ a bioweapon in a way that only the enemy is affected and not friendly forces. A biological weapon is useful to terrorists mainly as a method of creating mass panic and disruption to a society. However, technologists such as Bill Joy have warned of the potential power which genetic engineering might place in the hands of future bio-terrorists.[3]

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