Biologic Weapons is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Basics

Description

  • Defined as naturally occurring organisms or toxins that are purified and prepared for mass dissemination with intent of causing mass morbidity, mortality, and social disruption.
  • Organisms include bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Over 400 potential or actualized etiologic agents capable of being used as biologic weapon:
    • Characterized by their relatively low cost compared with other weapons of mass destruction (WMD), high potency, and their ability to be delivered in a stealthy manner
    • Stealth quality of biologic weapons comes from organism's natural incubation period.
  • Easy to conceal and difficult to detect:
    • Agents often invisible to naked eye, odorless, and tasteless
  • Patients typically present to various health care facilities with host of common complaints, adding to delay in recognition of covert release of biologic weapon.
  • Victims of biologic warfare agents are exposed either via direct cutaneous contact with agent, respiratory inhalation of aerosolized agent, or via GI tract after poisoning of food or water source.

Etiology

  • Bacteria:
    • Anthrax: Bacillus anthracis
    • Plague: Yersinia pestis
    • Cholera: Infection from Vibrio cholerae:
      • Presents with severe GI symptoms and rapidly leads to profound dehydration
    • Tularemia: Francisella tularensis
    • Brucellosis: Organism in the Brucella genus
    • Q fever: Coxiella burnetii
  • Viruses:
    • Smallpox: Variola virus
    • Viral encephalitides: Members of Alphavirus genus (Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, and Western equine encephalitis)
    • Viral hemorrhagic fevers: From 4 families of viruses, includes illnesses such as Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, and dengue fever
  • Toxins:
    • Ricin
    • Staphylococcal enterotoxin B
    • Botulinum toxin
    • Mycotoxins

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Citation

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TY - ELEC T1 - Biologic Weapons ID - 307204 Y1 - 2016 PB - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307204/all/Biologic_Weapons ER -