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Information on Agents, Diseases and Threats


Pandemic Influenza | Biological Agents | Chemical Agents | Radiological and Nuclear Threats | Reporting Threats or Suspicious Activity

Pandemic Influenza

A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. It is determined by how the disease spreads, not how many deaths it causes.  When a new influenza A virus emerges, a flu pandemic can occur. Since the virus is new, the human population has little to no immunity against it. The virus spreads quickly from person-to-person worldwide. Check out the table below for additional information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional information on pandemic influenza can be found at http://www.flu.gov.

Seasonal Flu versus Pandemic Flu  

Pandemic Flu

Seasonal Flu

Rarely happens (three times in 20th century)

Happens annually and usually peaks in January or February

People have little or no immunity because they have no previous exposure to the virus

Usually some immunity built up from previous exposure

Healthy people may be at increased risk for serious complications

Usually only people at high risk, not healthy adults, are at risk of serious complications

Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed

Health care providers and hospitals can usually meet public and patient needs

Vaccine probably would not be available in the early stages of a pandemic

Vaccine available for annual flu season

Effective antivirals may be in limited supply

Adequate supplies of antivirals are usually available

Number of deaths could be high (The U.S. death toll during the 1918 pandemic was approximately 675,000)

Seasonal flu-associated deaths in the United States over 30 years ending in 2007 have ranged from about 3,000 per season to about 49,000 per season.

Symptoms may be more severe

Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and muscle pain

May cause major impact on the general public, such as widespread travel restrictions and school or business closings

Usually causes minor impact on the general public, some schools may close and sick people are encouraged to stay home

Potential for severe impact on domestic and world economy

Manageable impact on domestic and world economy

A fact sheet on Seasonal Influenza is available from the VDH Office of Epidemiology at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/Epidemiology/factsheets/Influenza.htm.


Biological Agents

A biological agent is a bacterium, virus or other biological substance that can cause disease. Bioterrorism involves the use of any of these biological agents with the intent to cause harm.
For more information on biological agents, please visit the VDH Office of Emergency Preparedness webpage by clicking here.


Chemical Agents

A chemical agent is a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can harm people or the environment. Chemical Terrorism involves the use of any of these chemical agents with the intent to cause harm.

For more information on chemical agents, please visit the VDH Office of Emergency Preparedness webpage by clicking here.


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Radiological and Nuclear Threats

Radiological and nuclear threats include nuclear weapons and dirty bombs. Both spread radioactive materials, but a nuclear explosion would have a far reaching impact while a dirty bomb would affect a more targeted area. Intentional release of radioactive material is another form of terrorism.

For more information on radiological and nuclear threats, please visit the VDH Office of Emergency Preparedness webpage by clicking here.


Reporting Threats or Suspicious Activity

If you receive a threat or hear rumors of a threat, you should dial 9-1-1 immediately.

Please click here for additional information on what to do if you receive a bioterrorism threat.

Suspicious activity should be reported to local law enforcement or the Virginia Terrorism Hotline at 1-877-4VA-TIPS or 1-877-482-8477. You can also report suspicious activity online by visiting the Virginia Fusion Center website.


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Last Updated: 05-08-2013

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