Information on Agents, Diseases and Threats

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

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

Information on seasonal influenza is available from the VDH Office of Epidemiology by clicking here.

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.

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.

North Anna Nuclear Power Station

Portions of Spotsylvania and Caroline counties fall within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone for North Anna Power Station. In the event of an emergency at the power station, the State Health Commissioner may recommend that individuals within the affected area take potassium iodide (KI). KI can help block radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland, thus protecting this gland from radiation injury. Not all nuclear power plant accident scenarios may result in a sufficient release of radioiodine to justify distribution of KI. If distribution of KI is necessary, Rappahannock Area Health District officials would make it available to the public at designated Evacuation Assembly Centers (EACs).

Public health officials routinely work with the private sector as well as state, local and federal agencies to prepare for the unlikely event of a radiological emergency at the power station.

For more information, visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM)
VDH Office of Radiological Health
Dominion Virginia Power

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.