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Biologic Weapons

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

Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Biologic Weapons." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307204/all/Biologic_Weapons.
Biologic Weapons. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307204/all/Biologic_Weapons. Accessed April 23, 2019.
Biologic Weapons. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307204/all/Biologic_Weapons
Biologic Weapons [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 23]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307204/all/Biologic_Weapons.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Biologic Weapons ID - 307204 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307204/all/Biologic_Weapons PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -