A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate release of biological agents to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Biological agents can be spread through the air, through water, or in food, and may be used by terrorists because they can be extremely difficult to detect.

What are biological agents?

Biological agents are viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can be found naturally occurring in the environment. Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some, such as anthrax, cannot.

The following are common biological agents of concern for bioterrorism:


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Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF)
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More information about these bioterrorism threats can be found on their respective disease pages: anthrax, botulism, Brucellosis, plague, smallpox, and tularemia.

Last reviewed August 2021