Bioterrorism is the use or threatened use of viruses, bacteria, or other agents as weapons to cause harm to people, plants, or animals. These can be deployed several ways; some can spread from person-to-person while others cannot, but all acts of bioterrorism can cause an increased, delayed surge of sick people in a large area, can be very difficult to detect, and incite fear in the community. 

Bioterrorism agents are generally divided into three separate groups: A, B and C. Agents in these groups have specific characteristics that lead to their classification. 

Category A Agents include: Anthrax, Botulism, Plague, Smallpox, Tularemia, and Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. These have the following characteristics: 

  • Can be easily disseminated or transmitted person-to-person
  • Result in high mortality rates and have the potential for major public health impact
  • Cause panic and social disruption 
  • Require special attention for public health preparedness

Category B Agents include: Brucellosis, Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens, Glanders, Meliodosis, Psittacosis, Q Fever, Ricin toxin, Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, Typhus Fever, Viral encephalitis, and other water and food safety threats. These have the following characteristics: 

  • Moderately easy to disseminate
  • Results in moderate morbidity rates and low mortality rates
  • require enhanced disease surveillance activity, efforts, and equipment 

Category C Agents include: Nipah Virus, Hantavirus, Tickborne viral hemorrhagic fevers, Tickborne encephalitis, Yellow Fever, and Multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These have the following characteristics: 

  • Easily available
  • Easily produced and spread
  • Have potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major public health impact

Useful Links and More Information: 

Click Here for a video from the Bipartisan Policy Center on Bio-and Agrosecurity 

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bioterrorism page.