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Biological Emergencies

Biological Emergencies

Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Many biological threats are typically found in nature, but it is possible that they could be changed to increase their ability to cause disease and spread, or make them resistant to medications. Biological threats can be spread through the air, through water, or in food.

Public health departments and hospitals are preparing to respond to biological incidents involving germs like anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox and other diseases. Some germs, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some, like anthrax, cannot.

Unlike an explosion, a biological attack may not be immediately obvious. While it is possible that you will see signs of a biological attack, as was the case with the anthrax mailings, it is more likely that local health care workers will report an increase in the number of people being treated for an illness.

If a biological emergency happens in Michigan, public health officials will quickly inform the public of how to protect themselves. If antibiotics or vaccines are recommended, instructions will be provided on where you should go to receive treatment. Local health departments have plans in place for providing medications to the general public.

How to Prepare

There are things you can do to prepare for the unexpected. Knowledge is power, the more you know, the better you can respond. Learn about biological threats. This list of biological agents provides the basic information when the biological threat is known and the actions you can take.

What is Michigan doing to combat this health threat?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working closely with healthcare providers and laboratories to make them aware of, and able to identify the signs and symptoms of biological agents. Monitoring diseases and interviewing ill persons is incredibly important in public health efforts to detect bioterrorism. Hospitals, healthcare providers, and health departments throughout the state are prepared to follow the protocols and recommendations for care set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure patient safety.

Reporting Suspicious Activities in Michigan

If you notice any activity or behavior that seems suspicious or out of place, you should immediately notify law enforcement officials.

  • For emergencies dial 9-1-1
  • For non-emergencies, submit an anonymous tip dial 855-MICHTIP (855-642-4847), or online at

To learn about the Seven Signs of Terrorism contact, you can email or call 517-336-6429 to order a video or DVD.

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