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Biological Attack: Supporting Tables

Table 1. Onset, health impacts, and treatments for some agents of concern

HIGH THREAT AGENTS (CATEGORY A)

Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) - (inhalational)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: Typically 1-6 days, but up to 42
  • Symptoms: Fever, cough, profound sweats, malaise, fatigue, myalgiaus
  • Spread (person to person): No (only skin form spreads)
  • Lethality if untreated: High (if inhaled) viable in soil > 40 yrs
  • Persistence of Organism: Very stable spores
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Licensed
  • Medical Treatment: Antibiotics

Plague (Yersinia pestis)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 1-7 days (usually 2-3 days)
  • Symptoms: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore lymph nodes
  • Spread (person to person): Moderate
  • Lethality if untreated: High unless treated within 12-24 hours (pneumonic)
  • Persistence of Organism: For months in moist soil or other media
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Not current
  • Medical Treatment: Antibiotics

Marburg (Viral hemorrhagic fever)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 4-21 days
  • Symptoms: Sudden onset, fever, headache, followed by vomiting and diarrhea, rash, generalized bleeding in severe cases
  • Spread (person to person): Via fluids
  • Lethality if untreated: >25% lethal
  • Persistence of Organism: Relatively unstable
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): None
  • Medical Treatment: Supportive treatment only

Smallpox (Variola major virus)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 7-17 days (avg 12)
  • Symptoms: Fever, aches, after 2-4 days rash appears
  • Spread (person to person): Moderate
  • Lethality if untreated: High to moderate: ≥30% lethal
  • Persistence of Organism: Very stable
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Licensed
  • Medical Treatment: Supportive

Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 12 hours-5 days
  • Symptoms: Muscle paralyzing illness
  • Spread (person to person): No
  • Lethality if untreated: High without respiratory support
  • Persistence of Organism: Stable for weeks in nonmoving food/water
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Licensed (availability uncertain)
  • Medical Treatment: Antitoxin if administered quickly

LOWER THREAT AGENTS (SELECTED CATEGORY B AGENTS)

Cholera (Vibrio cholerae)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 4 hours-5 days (usually 2-3 days)
  • Symptoms: Sudden onset of voluminous watery diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, dehydration
  • Spread (person to person): Rare, although spreads rapidly via untreated water
  • Lethality if untreated: Low with treatment, high without
  • Persistence of Organism: Unstable in aerosols and fresh water, stable in salt water
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Investigational
  • Medical Treatment: Antibiotics

Glanders (Burkholderia mallel)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 1-14 days via aerosol
  • Symptoms: Pneumonia with or without blood poisoning, ulcers in nose, mouth, throat and lungs
  • Spread (person to person): No
  • Lethality if untreated: Death in 7 - 10 days in blood poisoning form
  • Persistence of Organism: Very stable
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): None
  • Medical Treatment: Antibiotics

Q fever (Coxiella burnetii)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 7-41 days
  • Symptoms: Flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia and hepatitis
  • Spread (person to person): No
  • Lethality if untreated: Very low
  • Persistence of Organism: For months on wood and sand
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Not licensed in U.S.
  • Medical Treatment: Antibiotics

Encephalitis (Alphaviruses)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 2-6 days
  • Symptoms: Fever, aches, pain behind the eye, nausea, vomiting
  • Spread (person to person): Low
  • Lethality if untreated: Low
  • Persistence of Organism: Relatively unstable
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): None
  • Medical Treatment: Supportive Treatment

Ricin (Ricinus communis)

  • Disease (agent) Incubation period*: 18-24 hours
  • Symptoms: Can shut down organ function
  • Spread (person to person): No
  • Lethality if untreated: High (injected)
  • Persistence of Organism: Stable supportive treatment
  • Vaccine Status (as of 03/05): Investigational
  • Medical Treatment: No antidote

*Incubation periods listed are for naturally occurring outbreaks, which could differ for agents used as weapons. Data for incubation period, lethality, and persistency from U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases Blue Book, August 2004.

Last Published Date: August 9, 2012
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