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HOME > Review > BioTerrorism in Oregon to win an election
BioTerrorism in Oregon to win an election

BioTerrorism has already happened...

The anthrax cases in Florida raised fears of a large scale biological attack on American soil. The reality is that such an attack took place in Oregon in 1984. In a plot to take over the local government of a small Oregon county, followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh poisoned salad bars in 10 restaurants sickening 751 people with salmonella. After taking over control of a small town government, the cult leaders plotted to take over the county government by sickening so many people on election day they could get their own candidates elected. State and federal health officials at first blamed restaurant workers, but they later learned the real cause.

It is still the largest bioterrorist attack in U.S. history, and most people don't even know that it happened.

The Rajneesh bioterrorism attack has received renewed attention, including a chapter in a book titled “Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War.”

Agents and Pathogens Rarely seen or Commonplace

One of the real problems with a terrorist attack with a biological agent is that the pathogens that could be used (anthrax, plague, tularemia) are rarely seen in the United States and the healthcare system must be made aware of the symptoms and be able to recognize these symptoms early.

The other problem is that the agents could be something so common (like flu) that there is no indication it is an attack until it has spread. Think this is not a problem? Think about the lost hours and lost productivity if a major outbreak of a common disease occurred...

Category A Diseases/Agents

High-priority agents include organisms that pose a risk to national security because they

  • Can be easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person
  • Result in high mortality rates and have the potential for major public health impact
  • Might cause public panic and social disruption
  • Require special action for public health preparedness.

Category A Diseases/Agents include: Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), Botulism (Clostridium botulinum toxin), Plague (Yersinia pestis), Smallpox (variola major), Tularemia (Francisella tularensis), Viral hemorrhagic fevers (filoviruses [e.g., Ebola, Marburg] and arenaviruses [e.g., Lassa, Machupo]).

Category B Diseases/Agents

Second highest priority agents include those that

  • Are moderately easy to disseminate
  • Result in moderate morbidity rates and low mortality rates
  • Require specific enhancements of CDC's diagnostic capacity and enhanced disease surveillance.

Category B Disease/Agents include: Brucellosis (Brucella species), Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens, Food safety threats (e.g., Salmonella species, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shigella), Glanders (Burkholderia mallei), Melioidosis (Burkholderia pseudomallei), Psittacosis (Chlamydia psittaci), Q fever (Coxiella burnetii), Ricin toxin from Ricinus communis (castor beans), Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, Typhus fever (Rickettsia prowazekii), Viral encephalitis (alphaviruses [e.g., Venezuelan equine encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis]), Water safety threats (e.g., Vibrio cholerae, Cryptosporidium parvum)

Category C Disease/Agents

Third highest priority agents include emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination in the future because of

  • Availability
  • Ease of production and dissemination
  • Potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact.

Category C Diseases/Agents include: Emerging infectious disease threats such as Nipah virus and hantavirus


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