Plague is a disease that is caused by the bacterium, Yersinia
pestis. Humans usually get plague after being bitten by a rodent
flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an
animal infected with plague. Plague is infamous for killing
millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague.
Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness
CIDRAP is a global leader in addressing public health
preparedness and emerging infectious disease response. Part of
the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota, CIDRAP
is led by Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director and professor,
Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public
Health, an adjunct professor in the Medical School, and an
internationally renowned expert in public health.
The center reduces illness and death from infectious diseases by
effecting change through public policy refinement, fostering the
adoption of science-based best practices in public health among
professionals and the public, and conducting original
This tool was developed to be a comprehensive resource for
clinical personnel by providing information on various aspects of
biological, chemical, and radiological terrorism. It is intended
to serve as an emergent guide book on what to do and where to
seek information in the event of an attack.
In recent years, the fear about terrorist attacks with biological
weapons has grown. This article addresses issues related to
biological warfare and bioterrorism and gives a concise overview
of the role that plague has played in the past and present as a
Plague is a disease that affects humans and other mammals. It is
caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Humans usually get
plague after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the
plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with
plague.Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in
Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, modern antibiotics are
effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the
disease can cause serious illness or death. Presently, human
plague infections continue to occur in the western United States,
but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia.
Plague has received much attention because it may be used as a
biological weapon. Intentionally released aerosols would cause
In order to prepare for such an event, it is important for
medical personnel and first responders to form a realistic idea
of the risk of person-to-person spread of infection. Historical
accounts and contemporary experience show that pneumonic plague
is not as contagious as it is commonly believed to be. Persons
with plague usually only transmit the infection when the disease
is in the endstage, when infected persons cough copious amounts
of bloody sputum, and only by means of close contact.
Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the
spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax most commonly
occurs in wild and domestic mammalian species (cattle, sheep,
goats, camels, antelopes, and other herbivores), but it can also
occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals or to
tissue from infected animals or when anthrax spores are used as a
In the event of a situation with grossly contaminated premises or
persons, a Hazmat response is appropriate. In other situations,
personal protective equipment (PPE) beyond gloves is not required
and the following guidelines are recommended.