Biological Agents

Agent: Anthrax

Description: Skin, intestinal, or inhalation infection that is caused by a bacteria. Symptoms typically begin within 7 days, but can take as long as 40 days to develop.

First Symptoms: Skin: blisters with black centers. Intestinal: nausea, loss of appetite, and upset stomach. Inhalation: flu-like symptoms that progress to severe breathing problems.

First Actions: Contact your health provider. Not spread from person to person.

Medical Response: Antibiotics should be started as soon as possible in sick persons . In persons that are not sick but have thought to have been exposed, vaccine should be administered in addition to antibiotics.


Agent: Botulism

Description: Muscle-paralyzing disease caused by a nerve toxin produced from a bacteria. Could be released in air, water, or food. Symptoms typically begin in 12 hours to 3 days.

First Symptoms: Blurred/double vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids. Can lead to paralysis.

First Actions: Immediately seek medical care. Cannot spread from person to person.

Medical Response: Antitoxin helps if started early and/or supportive care in a hospital.


Agent: Pneumonic Plague

Description: Lung infection caused by bacteria. Could be released into the air. Symptoms typically begin within 1-3 days

First Symptoms: Rapidly developing pneumonia with fever, cough, chills.

First Actions: Immediately seek medical care. Can spread from person to person through coughing.

Medical Response: Antibiotics should be started as soon as possible. Isolation for infected persons.


Agent: Smallpox

Description: Severe illness with rash caused by a virus. Officially destroyed in 1980 but has resurfaced as a potential terrorist agent. Symptoms begin within 7-19 days.

First Symptoms: High fever and aches followed by a severe rash.

First Actions: Contact your health provider. Can easily spread from person to person.

Medical Response: Isolation for infected persons to help prevent the spread of illness. Vaccines could help if given within 3 days of exposure to prevent infection or lessen illness.


Agent: Tularemia

Description: Disease caused by a bacteria, which could be released in air, food, or water. Symptoms generally begin within 3-5 days.

First Symptoms: Sudden fever, chills, coughing, aches.

First Actions: Contact your health provider. Cannot spread from person to person.

Medical Response: Antibiotics.