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Homeland Security

Biological Attack: Long-term Issues

Infectious Is Different from Contagious

The terms "infectious" and "contagious" are often confused. Infectious refers to the number of particles (spores or organisms) needed to infect an individual. The fewer number of particles needed, the more infectious the agent. Agents are contagious if they spread from person to person. Some agents that are highly infectious, such as Tularemia and Q fever, are not contagious.

Monitoring and Clean-up

After a biological agent has been identified, officials will take steps to characterize how long the agent will persist. Clean-up within buildings may entail the use of gas or liquid decontaminants to kill the agent. For example, chlorine dioxide gas was released through ventilation systems of buildings contaminated with anthrax. In some cases, multiple rounds of decontamination may be necessary. Decisions regarding how much clean-up is necessary will depend on:

  • The amount of agent released
  • How far the agent has spread
  • How the space will be used following clean-up

Long-term Health Consequences Following Exposure

The long-term health consequences for those who survive exposure to biological attack agents are unknown. A long-term medical surveillance program would likely be established to monitor potential health effects of those exposed.

Economic Impact of an Agricultural Attack

Once detected, an act of agricultural bioterrorism may quickly halt the movement and export of livestock or the affected crop, resulting in potentially severe economic consequences for producers, shippers, and consumers. It may also disrupt normal travel and commerce.

Last Published Date: July 19, 2012
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