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Biological weapons are used in bioterrorism attacks. Common agents include Bacillus anthracis, Clostridium botulinum, Yersinia pestis, and variola major. Other agents include filoviruses and arena viruses. Common foods and water-borne agents are also used in bioterrorist attacks. There are three categories of biological weapons: toxins, pathogens, and agents that can kill.
Recent events have heightened public awareness of the threat of bioterrorism and biological weapons. Physicians play an important role in the detection and response to such events. Because most bioterrorism agents affect the nervous system, early recognition and treatment are important. This article reviews the neurologic symptoms of biological terrorism agents, as well as their diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. The chapter will also discuss the safety of vaccines against these agents. As more awareness of bioterrorism increases, physicians will need to become more knowledgeable about these threats.
Threat of bioterrorism
In a world where biosafety and bioterrorism are crucial issues, the threat of bioterrorism has grown exponentially. Terrorists are increasingly using infectious microorganisms as weapons. This phenomenon is known as biological terrorism, and it uses infectious microorganisms to instil fear and intimidation in its victims. According to Darcy Bender, a research scientist for the Council on Foreign Relations, there have been 47 reported anthrax threats or hoaxes in the U.S., yet the threat has received little media attention.
Preparation for a bioterrorist attack
While the probability of a bioterrorist attack is low, it is important to prepare for the worst. Most federal agencies have been planning for bioterrorist attacks for several years. One such agency, the DPH, has a plan to monitor the local community for bioterrorist attacks. A bioterrorist attack would be different from other types of terrorist attacks. Since the attacks would be undetectable, many people would fear that they could get the disease.
Detection of agents
In the case of bioterrorism, rapid testing for agents may be essential to prevent any attacks. A quick test for bioterror agents could save lives and prevent a city from being devastated. For example, a surveillance system that identifies a certain syndrome could detect a bioterrorist attack before it is too late. This approach can be used to identify diseases, which have been released by a state or foreign actor.
Immediate notification of an attack
Bioterrorists can infect humans or animals with disease and destroy property. While individual actions may not prevent an attack, many government agencies are working to strengthen their response capacity. The CDC, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other entities are investing millions of dollars in bioterrorist preparedness and response infrastructure. In Illinois, IDPH works with these groups and other federal agencies to prevent attacks and protect communities.
Mental health consequences of exposure to a bioterrorist agent
The mental and social consequences of exposure to a bioterrorism agent are of particular concern. Although exposure to biological or chemical weapons may not cause immediate life-threatening conditions, it can trigger serious psychological and social distress. Some of the consequences of exposure to biological or chemical weapons include organic mental disorders, such as psychosis, delirium, and dementia. Furthermore, exposure to extreme levels of stress and trauma may cause anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
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