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Biological Attack

Before | During | After

Biological agents come in the form of bacteria, viruses, or toxins and can harm or kill people, livestock, plants and crops. Biological agents can be inhaled, ingested or enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth or through cuts in the skin. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, are not contagious while others, like the smallpox virus, plague and Lassa viruses are contagious. A biological agent may be used because it is extremely difficult to detect and many do not cause illness for several hours to several days.

A biological attack occurs when someone discharges germs or other biological material with the intent to cause illness, serious bodily injury or death. In the event of a biological attack:

  • Stay informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are. 
  • Public health officials may need time to provide information on the specific biological agent and what particular precautions you should take. It will take time to determine the nature of the illness caused by the biological agent, how it should be treated and who is in danger.

For more information on biological hazards, visit:

emergency.cdc.gov/bioterrorism/index.asp