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October 1997

Terrorism in AmericaAn Evolving Threat

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Oregon Health Sciences Center, Portland.

Arch Surg. 1997;132(10):1059-1066. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430340013001

The response of the United States to a perceived terrorist threat is dichotomous. The hyperbole and exaggeration often displayed by the media and general public lies in stark contrast to the relative indifference with which terrorism is regarded by the medical community. Quantitating the true nature of the terrorist threat in the United States is difficult, as it is not only poorly defined but rapidly changing. The intent of this commentary is to define what constitutes terrorism and what specific threats exist, including conventional, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. We will then outline recommendations for modest changes in our disaster medical planning to better prepare for these threats. Special attention will be directed at the emergence of nonconventional weapon use by terrorist organizations and how this might affect the civilian medical community. Arch Surg. 1997;132:1059-1066