Emergencies preparedness, response

Specific diseases associated with biological weapons

Any infectious agents or toxic chemical could in theory be engineered for deliberate use as a weapon. Experts in this field believe that anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox and tularaemia are the pathogens most likely to be used.

Anthrax: A disease caused by a bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, it has existed for hundreds of years and still occurs naturally in both animals and humans in many parts of the world, including Asia, southern Europe, sub-Sahelian Africa and parts of Australia. There are three forms of anthrax in humans: cutaneous, ingestion and inhalational. For further information, see Anthrax.

Botulism: A rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botulism toxin can be inhaled or ingested via contaminated food or water. There are five clinical categories: 1) foodborne botulism; 2) wound botulism; 3) infant botulism; 4) adult infectious botulism; 5) inadvertent, following botulinum toxin injection. For further information, see Botulism.

Plague: An infectious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which is transmitted between rodents by rodent fleas or to people through infected rodent flea bites. It can also be transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected animal tissue. There are three main forms of plague in humans: bubonic, septicaemic and pneumonic. For further information, see Plague.

Smallpox: An acute contagious disease caused by Variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family. The global eradication of smallpox was certified in 1979, based on intense verification activities in countries. For further information, see Smallpox.

Tularaemia: A disease caused by the highly infectious bacterium Francisella tularensis. Within the species, there are two predominant subspecies: F. tularensis tularensis (type A), which is found in North America, is more virulent than F. tularensis palaearctica (type B), which occurs in Asia, Europe, and North America. Clinical manifestations depend on the route of entry and the virulence of the agent. There are six forms of tularaemia in humans: ulceroglandular, glandular, oropharyngeal, oculoglandular, respiratory and typhoidal. For further information, see Tularaemia.