Bioterrorism is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria or other germs (agents) to cause illness or death in people, animals or plants. These agents are typically found in nature, but can be altered to enhance their morbidity rate, resistant to medicines and virulence.

Biological agents can be spread through the air or water or in food. Terrorists may use biological agents because they can be difficult to detect and have incubation periods of several hours to several days.

Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can spread from person to person and some, like anthrax, can not.

Bioterrorism agents can be arranged into three categories, based on their virulence, severity and mortality rate. Category “A” agents are of the highest priority; whereas, Category “C” agents are considered emerging threats.

Category “C” Diseases/Agents are the third tiered agents which include nascent pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination in the future due to their availability, ease of production and dissemination; and potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact.

Bioterrorism as an U.S. State Statute Topic

This term is one of the topics in some U.S. State Statutes. Other topics of the World Encyclopedia of Law which are topics of some State Statures are:


Anthrax; Biodefense; Biological and Chemical Weapons; Biosafety; Botulism; Disasters and Emergency Preparedness; Hemorrhagic Fever; Infectious Diseases (General); Smallpox.

Further Reading

Arizona Department of Health Services, “History of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism,”
P. Bossi, et al., “Bioterrorism: Management of Major Biological Agents,” Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences (v.63, 2006).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emergency Preparedness and Response Section,
Donald Henderson, “The Looming Threat of Bioterrorism,” Science (v.283/5406, 1999).
N. F. Lightfoot; R. C. Spencer, “Preparedness and Response to Bioterrorism,” Journal of Infection (v.43, 2001).
National Public Radio, “History of Biological Warfare,”
Paul Rogers; Simon M. Whitby; Malcolm Dando, “Biological Warfare against Crops,” Scientific American (v.280/6, 1999).

Other Topics in the American Legal Encyclopedia

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One response to “Bioterrorism”

  1. international

    The Army had a few periods of experimenting with LSD and other drugs. While not secret, these tests are not as well-known as some of the similar LSD tests conducted by the CIA, such as MK-ULTRA and Operation Paperclip, where the U.S. government recruited former Nazi scientists.

    This test, circa 1958, was conducted at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and was part of a Chemical Corps program that sought effective psychochemical incapacitants, to be delivered in aerosol form. Apparently, President Eisenhower was enthusiastic about the program and its possibilities.

    In the end, LSD proved to be problematic — it was too expensive, it was unstable once airborne, and there were patent complications — but the program did lead to Agent BZ, which was weaponized but never used in combat.