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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Bioterrorism and Mass Casualty Events

Photomicrograph of anthrax bacteria.  Image courtesy of CDC.   Bioterrorism:  A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or 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.  Learn More >>

Picture of castor beans, which are used to make ricin

  Chemical Emergencies:  A chemical emergency occurs when a hazardous chemical has been released and the release has the potential for harming people's health. Chemical releases can be unintentional, as in the case of an industrial accident, or intentional, as in the case of a terrorist attack.  Learn More >>
Radiation symbol

  Radiation Emergencies:  A radiological or nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland could take a number of forms, including: contamination of food or water with radioactive material; placement of radiation sources in public locations; detonation of radiological dispersal devices that scatter radioactive material over a populated area; an attack on a nuclear power plant or a high-level nuclear waste storage facility; or an improvised nuclear device.  Learn More >>
Image of an ambulance Mass Casualty:  Although terrorists use a variety of methods to inflict harm and create fear, bombs are used most frequently. According to the U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, bombings accounted for nearly 70 percent of all terrorist attacks in the U.S. and its territories between 1980 and 2001. This document focuses on common sense principles that will be useful in a bombing event. Learn More >>
References provided courtesy of Center for Disease Control and Radiation Emergency Medical Management.

  • This page last reviewed: July 12, 2017