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August 6, 1997

Biological TerrorismPreparing to Meet the Threat

Author Affiliations

From the Office of the President, Political Risk Assessment Co, Inc [a consulting firm in security and terrorism research], Santa Monica, Calif.
Dr Simon has received royalties for his book, The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience With Terrorism (Indiana University Press, 1994).

JAMA. 1997;278(5):428-430. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550050090039

The threat of terrorists using biological warfare agents has received increased attention in recent years. Despite the hope that, with the right mix of policies, security measures, and intelligence gathering, a major biological warfare terrorist attack can be prevented, the history of conventional terrorism indicates otherwise. The greatestpayoff in combating biological terrorism lies in focusing on how best to respond to a terrorist attack. The medical and emergency service communities will play the most important role in that process. Ensuring that they are trained to recognize the symptoms of diseases caused by biological warfare agents and have Critical Incident Stress Debriefing teams available to help them cope with the emotional aspects of treating exposed survivors should be part of contingency planning. By improving our readiness to respond to biological terrorism, many lives can be saved and terrorists denied their goal of creating panic and crisis throughout the country.