What is Bioterrorism?

Bioterrorism is a form of terrorism in which germs are used against another person. Germs used in bioterrorism are known as biological or bioterrorist agents. Some examples of biological agents are listed above. Please click on them to learn more.

How do I know if I have been exposed to a biological agent?

Most bioterrorist threats turn out to be false alarms, so often people only think they have been exposed to a bioterrorist agent. Recent exposures to the biological agent Anthrax have been through the mail. Often exposures happen when people touch or breathe in Anthrax spores that are in a letter or package.

What do I do if I think I have been exposed to a bioterrorist agent?

If you think you have been exposed, call 911. Randolph Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services will work together to assess the situation, and if needed, will collect the substance and send it to be tested.

If I actually were exposed to a biological agent, what symptoms should I look for?

Different germs can cause different symptoms. With some agents, symptoms resemble either the flu or food poisoning. People who are exposed may experience fever, chills, and muscle weakness. Others may experience coughing, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting. It is important to remember that these symptoms are common in many illnesses and are not usually the result of bioterrorist events, however, if you are feeling sick, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.

How long would it take for symptoms to appear?

The length of time it takes for symptoms to appear depends on the type of germ used. Symptoms can appear between several hours to several weeks after exposure.

Is there treatment if I am exposed to a biological agent?

For many biological agents, treatment is available, but it is very important that it begins early. Therefore, if you think you may have been exposed to one of these germs, see a health care provider as soon as possible.

How can I protect myself against bioterrorism?

Most of the bioterrorist activity to date has been through the mail. Although chances are extremely small that you will receive a letter containing a bioterrorist agent, when opening mail that is unexpected, look for signs that may be suspicious such as: no return address, misspelled words, more postage than needed, or addressed to a title (such as “president”) rather than to a person. If you receive a letter or package that could be considered suspicious, don’t shake or bump it, and do not open, smell, or taste it. If you have touched the item, wash your hands with soap and water and call 911.

Do not take antibiotics as protection against biological agents unless you have been exposed to a biological agent, and antibiotics have been prescribed to you by a health care provider. Unnecessary use of antibiotics can create drug resistant strains of bacteria that will be more difficult to treat.

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