Bioterrorism: The Laboratory's Role and Response

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Author: Garland E. Pendergraph, PhD, JD, MLS(ASCP)SM, HCLD/CC(ABB)
Reviewer: Daniel J. Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ)
Reviewer: Julie Ann West PhD, MLS (ASCP), SM(ASCP)

This course addresses the threat of bioterrorism and what clinical laboratories and laboratorians can do to be prepared. The course covers major biological and chemical agents (including their warning signs and symptoms) and the laboratory's role in the nationwide system for detecting these agents. The emphasis of the course is not on fear but on responsible action that can save lives in the unlikely event of a terrorist act.

Continuing Education Credits


  • Discuss the working definition of terrorism.
  • Identify the critical agents that might be suspect for a biological or chemical terrorism event and some of the clinical manifestations caused by the highest priority agents.
  • Outline the clinical laboratory’s response in a biological or chemical terrorist alert and know what you can do to protect yourself and others.
  • Summarize what you can do at work and in your community regarding preparedness, response, and determent of a possible act of terrorism.

Course Outline

  • Terrorism Defined
      • Terrorism Defined
      • What Constitutes Terrorism?
      • Terrorism Targets
      • Types of Terrorism
  • Biological Agents
      • Biological Agents
      • Categories of Biological Agents
      • Category A
      • Category B
      • Category B Agents in Food and Water
      • Category C
      • High profile landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty or the White House are the only places at risk from terrorist attack.
      • Biological agents that are the easiest to disseminate, or that pass most easily from person to person are found in Category:
  • Recognizing Biological Agents as WMDs
      • Recognizing Biological Agents as WMDs
      • Agent: Smallpox (Virus)
      • Agent: Anthrax (Bacterium)
      • Agent: Pneumonic plague (Bacterium)
      • Agent: Botulism (Bacterium)
      • Agent: Tularemia (Bacterium)
      • Agent: Viral hemorrhagic fevers (Viral)
      • Why Biological Agents Would be Chosen as WMDs
      • Why Biological Agents Would be Chosen as WMDs (cont.)
      • Why Biological Agents Would Not Be Chosen as WMDs
      • Early symptoms of inhaled Anthrax include:
      • Which of the following is a reason why biological agents would NOT be chosen as WMD?
  • Laboratory Response
      • Laboratory Response
      • The LRN Pyramid
      • Sentinel Labs
      • Reference Labs
      • National Labs
      • Laboratory Response - Chemical (LRN-C)
      • Laboratory Response - Chemical, Level 3
      • Laboratory Response - Chemical, Level 2
      • Laboratory Response - Chemical, Level 1
      • In the LRN hierarchy, large organizations like the CDC, the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, and the Naval Medic...
      • In the Chemical Component of the LRN, there are 54 laboratories divided into three levels. Which laboratory or organization oversees all three levels?
  • Your Response
      • Your Response
    • At Work
      • Your Response – At Work
      • Physical Security
      • Electronic Security
      • Suspicious Packages or Envelopes
      • Suspicious Packages or Envelopes (continued)
      • What do I do if I find a suspicious package?
      • Responding to an Alarm
      • Be Prepared
      • The Fear Factor in Bioterrorism
      • What You Can Do to Prevent Panic
      • If you see a suspicious package, the first thing you should do is take it to a safe location and call the police.
    • Beyond the Workplace
      • Your Response - Beyond the Workplace
      • Be Aware
      • General Preparedness in Your Home
      • General Preparedness in Your Community
    • What If?
      • What if...?
      • What if: Dirty Bomb Attack
      • In Case of a Dirty Bomb Attack
      • What if: Chemical Attack
      • In Case of a Chemical Attack
      • What if: Biological Attack
      • In Case of a Biological Attack
      • Final Remarks
  • Additional Information
      • Additional Information
      • References

Additional Information

Level of Instruction: Intermediate
Intended Audience: Clinical laboratory science students, and medical laboratory scientists and technicians seeking review or continuing education opportunities. Also appropriate for medical students, pathology residents, and pathologists.
Author Credentials: Garland E. Pendergraph, PhD, JD, MLS(ASCP)SM, HCLD/CC(ABB) received his MSPH from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, his PhD in medical parasitology/entomology and mycology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and his law degree with a concentration in health care law from Concord Law School, Purdue University. He also did a Fellowship in Tropical Medicine at Louisiana State University School of Medicine. He is the author of a textbook in phlebotomy, a number of scientific articles, plus internet training programs. He is the director of five laboratories.
Reviewer Information: Daniel J. Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, CQA (ASQ) has over 30 years of experience as a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist. He has a bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Amherst and Buffalo, New York. Dan is a Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Health, a system of 12 hospitals and over 20 laboratories and draw sites. As “Dan the Lab Safety Man,” he serves as a laboratory safety consultant, trainer, author, and speaker.
Reviewer Information: Dr. Julie Ann West is certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) as a Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) and as a Specialist in Microbiology (SM). In addition, Dr. West has earned a PhD in Public Health - Infectious Disease Epidemiology and is Certified in Public Health (CPH) by the National Board of Public Health Examiners. Dr. West is experienced as a Technical Specialist, Safety Officer, Educator, and Lead in the Veterans Administration Healthcare System, and has prior experience as an Administrative Laboratory Director.

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