Though we do not know if or when an attack with Yersinia pestis might take place, CDC and other federal agencies are prepared to respond in case such an emergency occurs.

What you can do to prepare

Preparing for a bioterrorist attack is different from preparing for other emergencies. There are things you can do now to make sure you have the knowledge and tools to protect yourself and your family should an attack occur.

Know how you would stay informed

If a bioterrorist attack using Y. pestis were to occur, CDC and other federal agencies would communicate with you through television, radio, the internet, and other channels. You would be able to get information on CDC’s website or social media pages. CDC would coordinate with state and local public health departments, law enforcement, and other federal agencies to let you know the things you can do to protect yourself and your family. You can also talk to your primary healthcare provider.

In any public health emergency, it’s important for you to look for information early and often. As CDC and other public health authorities learn more information about the situation, they will communicate it to you.

Know your medical history

If an attack with Y. pestis were to occur, public health authorities would distribute antibiotics and medical supplies to communities to help prevent infection. Antibiotic prevention (prophylaxis) and treatments for plague are generally safe and effective but may cause some side effects. Before taking antibiotics or giving antibiotics to others in your household, you would need to tell treating healthcare providers about the medical history of anyone in your family who is to receive antibiotics, including:

  • Their medical conditions
  • Any medications they are currently taking
  • Allergies to drugs or medications

In a plague emergency, many lives can be saved with prompt prevention and treatment. It would be very important to start taking antibiotics as soon as you get them and take them as directed.

Know the symptoms of plague

During a plague emergency, you should be able to recognize the symptoms of plague, especially pneumonic plague, and be prepared to get medical care if symptoms develop.

What CDC and others are doing to prepare

CDC continually takes steps to prepare for a plague outbreak so that if it were to happen, public health authorities could respond quickly to slow down and stop the spread of disease. There are many ways CDC and other federal agencies prepare.

  • Research – CDC works with scientists to determine best practices for plague diagnosis and treatment. Human clinical data and animal study data are researched and compiled to provide up-to-date guidance to clinicians.
  • Store antibiotics and medical supplies– The federal government maintains the Strategic National Stockpileexternal icon which contains enough antibiotics and medical supplies to treat people who have been exposed to Y. pestis or who become ill following exposure.
  • 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 to emergencies. These groups train for emergency scenarios on a regular basis. Additionally, 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. In an emergency, CDC would coordinate response activities and provide resources to health departments through the CDC Emergency Operations Center.
  • Educate professionals and the public – Without ongoing education and training, it might be difficult to recognize and diagnose plague in an emergency. CDC continues to educate the public and provide training to medical providers, public health professionals, and laboratory workers. The goal of education and training is to give people the knowledge and tools they need to recognize symptoms of the disease and respond to the disease if an emergency occurs.