Preparing for the possibility of a bioterrorist attack in California is a focus of the California Department of Public Health and others who are responsible for protecting the health of Californians. Ensuring that we are prepared will help minimize the impact of an attack should it occur.

A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make a person sick. Many agents must be inhaled or eaten, and others may enter through a cut in the skin. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus, can result in infectious diseases.

This section features information on common bioterrorism agents and what you need to know – and do – should a bioterrorism event occur.


Anthrax is a very serious disease caused by bacteria.


Smallpox used to be a worldwide disease, but a vaccine wiped it out everywhere.