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Bioterrorism is a deliberate attack with the release of bacteria, viruses, or other agents used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These agents are typically found in nature, but they could be to increase their ability to be spread into the environment, increase their ability to cause disease, or make them resistant to current medicines.

Biological agents can be spread through the air, through water, or in food. Biological agents can be extremely difficult to detect and do not cause illness for several hours to several days, which is why terrorists may use them. Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some, like anthrax, can not.

“The ability to detect and prevent infectious diseases is a key component of our federal efforts to combat terrorism. As we sadly learned during the anthrax crisis in 2001, bioterrorism is a real threat.”

The Honorable Tom Davis, R-Va
US House of Representatives

Bioterrorism Overview, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008-02-12, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/overview.asp, retrieved 2009-11-18

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