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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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The Fear Factor in Bioterrorism

As the term suggests, terrorists excel at creating panic. What is so insidious about chemical and biological terrorism is that it involves agents that we can’t see. People don’t know how to react when they can’t see what is hurting them. There are several examples, from a commercial bus crash to someone who reported smelling gas in a school, where rumors that the incidents were caused by either biological or chemical terrorism triggered an “epidemic hysteria”. In both areas the local hospital’s emergency room was overwhelmed. In each of the incidents mentioned, State and Federal officials spent countless hours investigating and found no possible biohazard, but the panic was real. From these experiences we see more than ever that healthcare workers are not just the first line of defense in the event of an actual attack, they are who the public looks to for rationality and reliable information in an bioterrorism emergency.