Disease Outbreak and Biological Threats

Natural Threats:

Current natural threats include:

West Nile Virus is a disease spread by mosquitoes that can infect humans, birds, horses and other animals. In most cases, WNV can cause flu-like illness or may cause no symptoms at all. However, in some cases, particularly among the elderly, it can cause serious encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

Learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your family at www.cdc.gov Fight the bite!

Pandemic Influenza is a global outbreak that could be caused by a new flu virus-not the seasonal flu that affects people every year. The new flu virus will be different from the seasonal flu that affects people every year. Pandemic influenza may spread easily from person to person, causing serious illness and affecting many people around the world in a short period of time. There is no pandemic influenza in the world at this time.

Man-made Threats:

A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate use of a virus, toxin, or bacteria to cause fear or harm. Many bioterror agents must be inhaled, enter through a cut in the skin. or be eaten to make you sick. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, cannot spread from one person to another. Others, like the smallpox virus, are highly contagious.


Many diseases can be treated and controlled with medications and vaccines. In the event of a biological attack or disease outbreak, the City of Chicago has plans to distribute medicine or a vaccine to those who are at risk.


Chemical Threats:

Chemical threats can affect people by accidental exposure or through a deliberate release. In the event of a major spill, authorities will let you know what you must do.

Accidental exposures can occur when hazardous materials are released into the environment by leaking storage containers, and spills from tanker trucks or ships.

A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid. Signs of a chemical attack include:

  • Many people suffering from watery eyes, twitching, choking, having trouble breathing or losing coordination.
  • Many sick or dead birds, fish or small animals are also cause for suspicion. If you think you have been exposed to a chemical hazard, you should take the actions listed below.


  • Stay upwind of the material if possible
  • Get to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible if needed
  • If there is a chemical hazard indoors, try to get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area.
  • Otherwise, it may be better to move as far away from the hazard as possible and shelter in place.
  • Quickly remove any contaminated clothing.
  • Do not pull the clothing over your head; cut it off instead.
  • Put clothing in a plastic bag and keep far away from you and anyone else in your home. Wash yourself with regular soap and water.
  • Do not try to wash or throw away your clothes
  • If you have been exposed to hazardous materials, officials may recommend that you be decontaminated.
  • Decontamination means removing your clothing and washing your body to reduce or remove the chemical so that it is no longer a hazard.
  • People who have in special emergency training will set up decontamination facilities.
  • Emergency personnel will provide medical attention if necessary.

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