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13.5: Bioterrorism

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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"The world has definitely changed." This statement is common at times. What might it refer to?

Bioterrorism is a threat against civilized people worldwide. To be prepared, all levels of government have developed and conducted terrorism drills. These include protecting responders from harmful biological substances.


Bioterrorism is the intentional release or spread of agents of disease. The agents may be viruses, bacteria, or toxins produced by bacteria. The agents may spread through the air, food, or water; or they may come into direct contact with the skin. Two of the best known bioterrorism incidents in the U.S. occurred early in this century:

  1. In 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news offices and two U.S. Senate offices. A total of 22 people were infected, and 5 of them died of anthrax.
  2. In 2003, a deadly toxin called ricin was detected in a letter addressed to the White House. The letter was intercepted at a mail-handling facility off White House grounds. Fortunately, the ricin toxin did not cause any illnesses or deaths.


  • Bioterrorism is the intentional release or spread of agents of disease.


Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is bioterrorism?
  2. How are bioterrorism agents categorized?
  3. Compare category A, B, and C bioterrorism agents.
  4. Where can you find information on becoming prepared in the event of a bioterrorist attack?


1. Define bioterrorism.

2. Research additional recent acts of bioterrorism.

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anthrax A serious disease caused by Bacillus anthraces, a bacterium that forms spores; infection in humans most often involves the skin, gastrointestinal tract, or lungs.
bioterrorism The intentional release or spread of agents of disease.
ricin A highly toxic, naturally occurring protein; a dose as small as a few grains of salt can kill an adult.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Aug 28, 2016
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