Emergencies preparedness, response

Information resources

Health aspects of biological, chemical and radionuclear threats

An electronic library of all documents and information on the health aspects of biological, chemical and radionuclear threats will be available in September.

:: e-Library

:: Publications

Public health response to biological and chemical weapons: WHO guidance (2004)

This second edition of WHO's 1970 publication Health aspects of biological and chemical weapons includes information designed to guide preparedness for and response to the deliberate use of biological and chemical agents that affect health. While noting that the probability of an attack with such weapons may be low, the guide underscores the magnitude of potential impacts on civilian populations and the corresponding need for public health authorities, in close cooperation with other parts of government, to develop contingency plans. For such plans to be effective, collaborative arrangements involving all partners have to be established and tested well before an incident or emergency occurs. Recommendations and advice draw on the expertise of many specialists around the world.

The guide has six main chapters. Advice on assessing the threat to public health posed by the deliberate use of biological and chemical agents that affect health is followed by a review of the characteristics of these agents that influence dissemination patterns and help predict short- and long-term consequences. Implications of the possible use of such weapons for both warfare and terrorist objectives are covered.

The most extensive chapter, on public health preparedness and response, sets out the principles for planning, moving stepwise from threat and risk assessment, hazard identification and evaluation, through the introduction of risk management strategies, to the many specific actions required for an effective and appropriate response. Details range from situations in which use of special protective equipment can actually hamper the ability to respond, to advice on the evaluation of biological hoaxes, to lessons extracted from terrorist attacks on civilians using chemical or biological agents. The guide also explains why response plans should be developed as an integral part of existing national emergency plans, and discusses the need for strong systems of disease surveillance and early warning that detect natural as well as deliberate outbreaks. Other chapters cover the preventive legal framework provided by treaties and describe international sources of assistance.

A review of representative groups of biological and chemical agents, including toxins, is provided. Various technologies and strategies used to protect individuals against physical contamination by chemical and biological agents are described, as well as precautions that can be taken to prevent sabotage of drinking water, food and other products.

Preparedness for the deliberate use of biological agents: A rational approach to the unthinkable (French)

This WHO publication provides an overview of public health functions and biological agents of concern.  It also describes global surveillance and response, alert and response operations and how countries can strengthen the response to a shared threat.

Terrorist threats to food: Guidance for establishing and strengthening prevention and response systems

This new WHO guidance is intended to help national governments establish mechanisms which will minimize potential terrorist acts against food supplies. Because both unintentionally and deliberately caused outbreaks of foodborne disease may be managed by many of the same mechanisms, the WHO recommendations concentrate on working with national governments on integrating terrorism prevention and response measures into existing national food safety and disease surveillance programmes.

Public information on biological and chemical threats(Arabic )

The purpose of this document is to inform the public about biological and chemical hazards and thereby prepare the population for an immediate response in the event of an incident until public health support is provided.

In any biological or chemical incident, there are certain appropriate and inappropriate responses. How we respond determines the chances of survival for the victims and the long-term impact on families, communities, and even nations. The agents reported here are: Anthrax, Botulism, Haemorrhagic Fever, Smallpox, the Plague, Tularaemia, Chlorine, Cyanide, Lewisite, Mustard Gas, Ricin, Sarin, Soman, Tabun and VX. This list is not exhaustive and no doubt other dangerous types could be produced. This information has been prepared with the public in mind, and thus much of the medical terminology has been removed and replaced with every day language.

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