Bioterrorism is a form of terrorism where the attack is done through the intentional release of biological agents like viruses, bacteria or other kinds of germs that causes illness or even death. This is also referred to as ‘germ warfare.’ Many of the biological agents are found in nature and are modified and made more harmful with the view of causing, spreading disease or to resist medical treatment. Biological agents can be transmitted through air, water, food and also from person to person which are very difficult to detect. The response is not immediate as it takes several days (Bioterrorism, n.d.).
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The biological agents are considered as the best alternative to weapons as they are low cost, accessible and can be easily produced and delivered. Their use or even threatened use can produce a large amount of social disruption. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluates potential threats from different kind of agents and classify them into three categories.
Category A consist of the high priority agents that carry a risk to the national security, and they are easily disseminated, cause high social disruption and requires special action. Moreover, much of biodefense research is directed towards these agents. Category B consist of agents that could possibly threaten are and food safely. These are moderately easy to spread and cause moderate injury. Category C includes emerging pathogens that are considered emerging infectious disease that could be engineered for the mass spread in the future because of its availability, easy production and potential for high injury and major health impact. So, the classification into the categories is based on the ability of agent dissemination, its mortality rate, the capability of causing panic in the public and the action required for preparedness. The risk from various agents is determined considering its effect on human health, its degree of infectiousness or the method used to transfer to humans, and the availability and effectiveness of its treatment (Bioterrorism Agents/Diseases, n.d.).
The agent of bioterrorism can be dispersed in many ways. They can be dispersed in the airways by sprays or other devices which is called an aerosol attack. This might take place outdoors or indoor. Another way of spreading the agent can be through food or water where the ready to eat foods are contaminated intentionally with toxins. Human beings, animals and insects could also carry agent and make people ill and keep them in fear (Biodefense and Bioterrorism, n.d.).
The biological attack may not be detected for hours, days or weeks until people, animals show symptoms of the disease. If the sign and symptoms of the attack are not seen initially the health care provider may detect the agent by seeing the patterns of unusual illness. The evidence of attack can be seen in animals before humans. The area affected by the agent would depend on the quantity of agent released. Those agents which are released outdoors would spread in the direction of the wind and its effect could be decreased with sunlight. So, the agent released indoors would create more fear in the people. It may be difficult in finding the exact location of the initial release, or the type of agent used in the attack. Many experts have to come together to quickly identify the agent and take necessary action. Thus, the characteristics of the biological attack are more difficult identity than the characteristics of other traditional attacks (Green, n.d.)
The agents have a high potential of producing a life-threatening illness. Even the small amount of some agents released in air results in highest number of loss of life depending upon the contamination of the agent, the capacity of the agent to cause death or serious harm or damage and the length of time that it takes to detect the agent and identifying who are exposed to it. The exact dose of the biological agents to make people ill is not known but depends upon the various factors like duration of the agent in the body, amount of agent, route of exposure and strength of the immune system of one’s body. Some contagious agent can spread in the body through from coughing, sneezing or when the infected people come directly in contact with other people. so, the infected people can also spread the disease by different means (Biodefense and Bioterrorism, n.d.)
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These kinds of attack can not only take the life of the people but also affect the people mentally. The attack has an adverse effect on the mental health of the people. The psychological effect of bioterrorism includes fear, anger, and social isolation. The 2001 anthrax attack led the unaffected people to suspect themselves as a victim and seek for the treatment. This made complication in providing the treatment to those who had been actually exposed and infected (Bioterrorism, n.d.)
People can protect themselves from the attack. During the emergency, people exposed in the declared area whose symptoms matches as to those described as a possible sign and symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. In order to avoid spreading germs, people should always maintain good hygiene and cleanliness. People should always follow the instruction provided by health care officials and receive a medical evaluation as soon as possible. People should become aware if they suspect any suspicious substances nearby. Quickly getting away from the place, covering mouth and nose with hands or any fabric, washing with soap and water is always recommended during or after the attack. Closely monitoring the sign and symptoms of the disease is necessary to find the effects of the agent in the body. In case of any doubt seeking the medical emergency is beneficial to minimize the risk. Moreover, bacterial illness is treated with antibiotics, vaccinations, and medications. The long-term health consequences are unknown for those who have survived the biological attack (Green, n.d.).
Many types of bacteria, viruses are used for the purpose of harming people. People are in fear because of bioterrorism. Bioterrorism is seen as a real threat after September 2001. It is used to threaten the people, government and country. Though the small number of people is injured many people are afraid and act accordingly. Bioterrorism is uncertain. We always have to prepare for an uncertain situation. Early detection as early as possible is important to an effective response to an attack. Early recognition of the specific agent is important for public health. Millions of dollars have been spent on improving the public health system’s bioterrorism response capabilities. To indicate an unusual infectious disease, medical officers need to be alerted. Early discovery and response to the agent play an important role. Special preparation at a different level is crucial to fight back the attack. A large number of people will seek for the treatment. (Green, n.d.).
The threat of bioterrorism is increasing. Today fighting against bioterrorism has become a global concern. The effectiveness of bioterrorism planning, preventions and response require cooperation, collaboration, and understanding between law enforcement and public health. With the proper education, the public can be aware of the bioterrorism, its effects and can understand the prevention measures. With the proper education, training, skills and advanced infrastructure the medical professional can response to attack as early as possible that helps to minimize the consequences of the attack of biological agents (Bioterrorism, n.d.)
- Biodefense and Bioterrorism. (n.d.). Retrieved from MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/biodefenseandbioterrorism.html
- Bioterrorism. (n.d.). Retrieved from familydoctor: https://familydoctor.org/bioterrorism/
- Bioterrorism Agents/Diseases. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/agentlist-category.asp
- Green, S. K. (n.d.). Bioterrorism and Health Care Reform: No Preparedness Without Access. Retrieved from Journal of ethics: https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/bioterrorism-and-health-care-reform-no-preparedness-without-access/2004-05
- Wynia, M. K. (n.d.). Ethical Challenges in Preparing for Bioterrorism: Barriers Within the Health Care System. Retrieved from American Journal of Public Health: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.94.7.1096
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