Bioterrorism is the intentional release of toxic biological agents to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified six "priority agents" that require special preparedness planning by public health departments:
- Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis)
- Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin)
- Plague (Yersinia pestis)
- Smallpox (variola major)
- Tularemia (Francisella tularensis)
- Viral hemorrhagic fevers
These priority agents pose the highest risk to national security and public health because they result in high mortality rates, and they can easily be disseminated or transmitted from person to person.
Bioterrorism preparedness is an issue of national importance. Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) has worked with its state and federal partners for over a decade to build out its response capabilities in the event of a bioterrorist attack. This response may include rapidly distributing and dispensing emergency medications and/or administering vaccines to an affected community.
PHSKC has partnered with government, healthcare, nonprofit, and private organizations to involve the whole community in bioterrorism preparedness planning. With its partners, PHSKC has created and regularly maintains a number of planning documents and tools. These materials align with national best practices in bioterrorism planning and are regularly evaluated by the CDC as a part of its Operational Readiness Review.