Why Prepare?

Basic Preparedness
Getting Informed
Planning and Checklists
Special Needs
Disaster Supplies Kit

Natural Hazards
Thunderstorms and lightning
Winter storms and extreme cold
Extreme heat
Landslides and debris flow

Technological Hazards
Hazardous materials incidents
Household chemical emergencies
Nuclear power plant emergencies

Biological threats
Chemical threats
Nuclear blasts
Radiological dispersion device events

Recovering from Disaster
Health and safety guidelines
Returning home
Seeking disaster assistance
Coping with disaster
Helping others

Biological Threats

Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock and crops. The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used are bacteria, viruses and toxins. Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, while others are very long lived. Biological agents can be dispersed by spraying them into the air, by infecting animals that carry the disease to humans and by contaminating food and water. Delivery methods include:
Aerosols - biological agents are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may drift for miles

Animals - some diseases are spread by insects and animals

Food and water contamination - some pathogenic organisms and toxins may persist in food and water supplies

Person-to-person - spread of a few infectious agents is also possible
Specific information on biological agents is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

Take Protective Measures
What can I do Before a Biological Attack?

Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date

Consider installing a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct

If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a stand-alone portable HEPA filter can be used

Filtration in Buildings

Building owners and managers should determine the type and level of filtration in their structures and the level of protection it provides against biological agents. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides technical guidance for filtration in buildings.

What do I do During a Biological Attack?

In the event of a biological attack, public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. It will take time to determine what the illness is, how it should be treated and who is in danger. Watch television, listen to radio or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where you should seek medical attention if you become ill.
The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. Be suspicious of any symptoms you notice, but do not assume that any illness is a result of the attack. Use common sense and practice good hygiene.
If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance nearby:
Move away quickly

Wash with soap and water

Contact authorities

Listen to the media for official instructions

Seek medical attention if you become sick
If you are exposed to a biological agent:
Remove and bag your clothes and personal items

Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items

Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes

Seek medical assistance

You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined

If you suspect that food has been contaminated, cook thoroughly. Most microbes can be killed and toxins deactivated, by cooking food and boiling water. Most microbes are killed by boiling water for one minute, but some require longer.

Using HEPA Filters

HEPA filters are useful in biological attacks. If you have a central heating and cooling system in your home with a HEPA filter, leave it on if it is running or turn the fan on if it is not running. Moving the air in the house through the filter will help remove the agents from the air. If you have a portable HEPA filter, take it with you to the internal room where you are seeking shelter and turn it on.
If you are in an apartment or office building that has a modern, central heating and cooling system, the systemís filtration should provide a relatively safe level of protection from outside biological contaminants.
HEPA filters will not filter chemical agents.

What do I do After a Biological Attack?

In some situations people may be alerted to potential exposure. If this is the case, pay close attention to all official warnings and instructions on how to proceed. The delivery of medical services for a biological event may be handled differently to respond to increased demand. The basic public health procedures and medical protocols for handling exposure to biological agents are the same as for any infectious disease. It is important for you to pay attention to official instructions via radio, television, and emergency alert systems.