Biological Threats

Biological threats come from bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or other biological substance that cause infectious diseases that can kill or incapacitate humans, animals, and plants.

These threats can occur because of an intentional release of biological substances in a terrorist attack, failure to dispose of infectious waste properly, failure to follow procedures for infection control, such asfrequent hand washing, or failure to receive proper immunizations.

Diseases caused by biological substances can be spread by several routes:

  • Aerosols – biological substances are dispersed into the air, forming a fine mist that may drift for miles. Inhaling the substance may cause disease in people or animals.
  • Animals – some diseases are spread by insects and animals, such as fleas, mice, flies, mosquitoes, and livestock.
  • Food and water contamination – some diseases are spread in food and water supplies. Most germs can be killed, and toxins deactivated, by cooking food and boiling water. Most common germs are killed by boiling water for one minute, but some take longer to die.
  • Person-to-person – some diseases, such as smallpox, plague, and influenza, are spread through personal contact, such as touching an infected person. For H1N1 INFLUENZA UPDATES click here
  • Blood-borne – some diseases, such as Hepatitis B and AIDS, are transmitted by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids.

These Web sites give you some information about preventing, preparing for, and responding to biological incidents:

Note: The following links are provided as a resource only. The content provided was not prepared by the Pittsburgh Regional Business Coalition for Homeland Security (PRBCHS), and is not necessarily endorsed by PRBCHS.


Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD)

The ACHD is responsible for safeguarding the health and safety of Allegheny County citizens. The Infectious Disease Program and Food Safety programs are the ACHD’s primary programs for preventing and responding to infectious diseases in the County.

Centers for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s National Center for Infectious Diseasesmaintains the Office of Disease Surveillance to monitor infectious disease outbreaks across the nation. The CDC also maintains an index of infectious diseases.

Health Protection Agency

The United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency’s Centre for Infections includes infectious disease surveillance, providing specialist and reference microbiology and microbial epidemiology, co-ordinating the investigation and cause of national and uncommon outbreaks, helping advise government on the risks posed by various infections and responding to international health alerts.

Infectious Disease News

Infectious Disease News has the latest news on research and treatment for infectious diseases.

Mayo Clinic Infectious Disease Center

The Mayo Clinic’s Infectious Disease Center offers information about the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. The center also gives information about biological weapons.

National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)

NSF International is the leading global provider of public health and safety risk management solutions. Not only does NSF provide product certification and safety audits for the food and water industries, NSF International is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food Safety and for Drinking Water Safety and Treatment.

Pennsylvania Department of Health-Health Alert Network

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Health Alert Network serves as a communication network among state and local public health agencies, healthcare providers, hospitals and emergency management officials. In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Health offers an Emergency Preparedness Guide and Survey for all types of emergencies in English and Spanish.

U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infections Diseases (USAMRIID)

USAMRIID, an organization of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, is the lead medical research laboratory for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program. The Institute plays a key role as the only laboratory in the Department of Defense (DoD) equipped to safely study highly hazardous infectious agents requiring maximum containment at biosafety level (BSL)-4.

UPMC Center for Biosecurity

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Center for Biosecurity works to affect policy and practice in ways that lessen the illness, death, and civil disruption that would follow large-scale disease outbreaks, with a focus on bioterrorism. The Center publishes a journal on the latest biosecurity efforts.

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