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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Bioterrorism: The Laboratory's Role and Response. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Agent: Botulism (bacterium)

Most likely means of dissemination: Aerosol (eating contaminated food)

Primary route of entry: Inhalation (oral)

General signs and symptoms: Difficulty with speaking, swallowing, or blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids (ptosis), dilated pupils, dry mouth, decreased gag reflex, weakening of the reflexes (hyporeflexia), abnormal sensations such as numbness, prickling, tingling, and arm or leg weakness.

Botulism is caused by a neurotoxin and technically could be classified as a chemical WMD. For our discussion it is placed under biological agents because the toxin is derived from a bacterium. Botulism is potentially life-threatening, producing a characteristic clinical picture of muscular paralysis leading to respiratory failure.                

Photo courtesy of the CDC archives.