Zoonoses Likely to be Used in Bioterrorism

C. Patrick Ryan

Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other agents used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. Only modest microbiologic skills are needed to produce and effectively use biologic weapons. And biological warfare has afflicted campaigns throughout military history, at times playing an important role in determining their outcomes.

There is a long list of potential pathogens for use by terrorists, but only a few are easy to prepare and disperse. Of the infectious diseases, the vast majority are zoonoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest-priority bioterrorism agents are in Category A. The only disease that does not affect animals in Category A is smallpox, which was eliminated by a worldwide vaccination program in the late 1970s. Because these diseases can infect animals and humans, the medical and veterinary communities should work closely together in clinical, public health, and research settings.

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