Although a bioterrorist attack to cause botulism is unlikely, public health authorities plan and prepare so that we can save lives.
What can you do to prepare?
A bioterrorist attack wouldn’t be the same as other emergencies that you might prepare for, like a hurricane or tornado. But you can take steps now to make sure you have the knowledge and tools to protect yourself and your family.
Know how you would stay informed
If a botulism outbreak happens, CDC will communicate with the public through television, radio, the internet, and other channels. You will be able to get information on CDC’s website and social media pages, including Facebook and Twitter. CDC would coordinate with state and local public health departments, law enforcement, and other federal agencies to tell people how to stay safe. You could also talk to your primary health care provider, such as your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant.
In an emergency, seek information early and often. No one will have all the answers on Day 1, but public health authorities will communicate information to you as they get it.
Know where to get medical care in an emergency
Botulism has certain symptoms. People who have those symptoms should seek medical care immediately.
In a public health emergency, certain hospitals or emergency rooms in the affected area may become overcrowded with people who are sick and people who are worried they might be sick. Local authorities will communicate where people with symptoms should go to get medical care.
What CDC Does to Prepare
CDC prepares for botulism outbreaks so public health authorities can respond quickly to identify and help people who are sick. CDC and others prepare in many ways.
- Provide expert clinical consultation: CDC and select state health departments provide expert clinical consultation on every suspected botulism case in the United States and help arrange the delivery of antitoxin to treat patients. No reported cases of botulism in the United States have been linked to bioterrorism.
- Store and release antitoxin: CDC and other government agencies maintain a stock of antitoxin in the Strategic National Stockpileexternal icon that is ready to dispatch to hospitals for treatment. Although antitoxin cannot reverse the effects of botulism, it can help prevent further paralysis.
- Research new treatments and lab tests: CDC works with scientists to find better ways to treat botulism and to develop laboratory tests that diagnose the disease faster and more easily.
- Makes sure toxin used for research is handled safely and securely: CDC helps ensure that scientific research on the toxin that causes botulism is conducted as safely and securely as possible by overseeing the Federal Select Agent Program that regulates the possession, use, and transfer of biological agents and toxins.
- Work with other groups to plan an effective response: CDC, other federal partners, state and local health departments, and medical organizations work together to plan how to respond in an emergency. They practice responding and learn from other public health and emergency responses. Each time CDC and its partners respond to an outbreak of disease or other public health emergency, public health authorities learn how to respond better.
- Educate professionals and the public: Botulism is a rare disease. Most doctors never see a case. CDC consults with clinicians evaluating patients who might have botulism. CDC also provides information about the disease for medical providers, public health professionals, laboratory workers, and the public. CDC experts want health professionals and the public to have the knowledge and tools they need to recognize and respond to botulism.
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