Doctor's Notes on Biological Warfare
Biological warfare involves the use of biological material as weapons, which includes any microorganism (such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi) or toxin (poisonous compounds produced by microorganisms) that can be used to kill or injure people. Biological agents can be disseminated through the air by aerosol sprays, used in explosives, put into food or water, or absorbed through or injected into the skin.
Symptoms of biological warfare exposure depend on the agent used. Common biological agents include anthrax, botulinum toxin, smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers, and ricin. Anthrax was used in acts of terrorism as a biological weapon when it was mailed to politicians in the early 2000’s.
When anthrax enters the skin, symptoms of anthrax infection include swelling, bleeding, and tissue death at the site of infection. Symptoms of inhalation anthrax include massive bleeding and swelling inside the chest cavity. The germs can spread to the blood, leading to shock and blood poisoning, and even death.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.