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Terrorist Attack and Other Threats

Various Threats

Human-caused hazards are intentional, criminal, malicious uses of force and violence to perpetrate disasters against people or property. They can be the result of terrorism – actions intended to intimidate or coerce a government or the civilian population to further political or social objectives – which can be either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base and objectives of the terrorist organization. They can also be acts of individuals perpetrated for personal reasons.

Hazards can result from, but are not limited to, the use of weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons; arson, incendiary, explosive and armed attacks; industrial sabotage and intentional hazardous materials releases; and cyber terrorism. The stark reality is that potential terrorist threats are limited only by the resources of the perpetrators, and as a result terrorism is quite difficult to prevent and prepare for.

Infectious Disease / Bio-Terrorism

An infectious disease is defined as an organism or matter that has the potential to spread or affect a population in adverse ways. Infectious diseases have the potential to affect any form of life at any time based on local conditions, living standards, basic hygiene, pasteurization and water treatment. Despite medical breakthroughs and technology, infectious diseases continue to pose an important public health problem. Today, the issue of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases is at the forefront of public health concern. The very young, older adults, and hospitalized and institutionalized patients are at increased risk for many infectious diseases. Changes in demographics, lifestyle, technology, land use practices, food production and distribution methods, and child care practices, as well as increasing poverty, have a role in emerging infections.

Many infectious diseases are preventable and are controllable. Prevention and control of infectious diseases involve collection of accurate assessment data (such as surveillance data for specific conditions), outbreak detection and investigation, and development of appropriate control strategies (both short and long term) based on specific epidemiologic data. These activities require close collaboration between clinical providers (especially infection-control practitioners within hospitals), clinical laboratories, state and local health departments, and federal agencies. Furthermore, a need exists for continued education of industry (particularly food producers and food-service industries), healthcare students and providers, along with research to improve immunizations, diagnostic methods, and therapeutic modalities. Thus, the prevention of infectious diseases requires multidisciplinary interventions involving public health professionals, medical practitioners, researchers, community-based organizations, volunteer and private groups, industrial representatives, and educational systems.

Some infectious diseases that could affect Benton County include:


Smallpox has not been an issue in the United States for more than 50 years, but with the threat of terrorism this disease has been thrust to the forefront of public concern and fear. Smallpox is a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox, and the only prevention is vaccination. The name smallpox is derived from the Latin word for “spotted” and refers to the raised bumps that appear on the face and body of an infected person.

There are two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. There are four types of variola major smallpox: ordinary (the most frequent type, accounting for 90 percent or more of cases); modified (mild and occurring in previously vaccinated persons); flat; and hemorrhagic (both rare and very severe). Historically, variola major has an overall fatality rate of about 30 percent; however, flat and hemorrhagic smallpox usually are fatal. Variola minor is a less common presentation of smallpox, and a much less severe disease, with death rates historically of 1 percent or less.

Influenza (Flu).

Influenza is a contagious disease that is caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat and lungs). The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms: fever, headache, tiredness (can be extreme), dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches.

Influenza types A or B viruses cause epidemics of disease almost every winter. In the United States, these winter influenza epidemics can cause illness in 10 to 20 percent of people and are associated with an average of 20,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year. Getting a flu shot can prevent illness from types A and B influenza. Influenza type C infections cause a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics. The flu shot does not protect against type C influenza. Influenza type A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two proteins on the surface of the virus. These proteins are called hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). The current subtypes of influenza A viruses found in people are A(H1N1) and A(H3N2). Influenza B virus is not divided into subtypes. Influenza A(H1N1), A(H3N2), and influenza B strains are included in each year’s influenza vaccine.

Influenza can be common in birds, though avian influenza viruses do not generally infect people. There are cases of limited human outbreaks, and if the virus were to change into form that was easily transferred between humans, but so far have not been transmitted from person to person.


Tuberculosis is a disease that is spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys or the spine. TB germs are put into the air when a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. When a person inhales air that contains TB germs, he or she may become infected. People with TB infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms. However, they may develop TB at some time in the future. The general symptoms of TB include feeling sick or weak, weight loss, fever and night sweats. The symptoms of TB of the lungs include coughing, chest pain and coughing up blood. Other symptoms depend on the part of the body that is affected.

Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is an enterically transmitted viral disease that causes fever, malaise, anorexia, nausea, and abdominal discomfort, followed within a few days by jaundice. The disease ranges in clinical severity from no symptoms to a mild illness lasting one and two weeks to a severely disabling disease lasting several months. In developing countries, hepatitis A virus is usually acquired during childhood, most frequently as an asymptomatic or mild infection. Transmission can occur by direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice or shellfish harvested from sewage-contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked, and which can become contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.

West Nile Virus (WNV).

West Nile virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus that can cause encephalitis in some people. This virus usually circulates between mosquitoes and birds in Africa and Europe. However, in 1999, an outbreak of WN encephalitis was reported in New York City. Since then the virus has spread throughout much of the eastern United States, and was found as close as Madison, Wisconsin, and east-central Iowa in 2002.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Mad Cow Disease.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease, is a chronic degenerative disease affecting the nervous system in cattle. It was first diagnosed in Great Britain in 1986. BSE is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). On December 23, 2003, a six-year-old Holstein cow in Washington state tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). This positive-BSE case is the first in the United States.

Hoof and Mouth Disease.

A highly contagious disease almost exclusive to cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and other cloven-hoofed animals. It is caused by a virus that was identified in 1897. Among its symptoms are fever, loss of appetite and weight, and blisters on the mucous membranes, especially those of the mouth, feet, and udder. Discharge from the blisters is heavily infected with the virus, as are saliva, milk, urine, and other secretions. Thus the disease is readily spread by contact; by contaminated food, water, soil, or other materials; or through the air. Humans, who seldom contract the disease, may be carriers, as may rats, dogs, birds, wild animals, and frozen meats. Quarantine, slaughter and complete disposal of infected animals, and disinfection of contaminated material, are prescribed to limit contagion. There is no effective treatment. With vaccines, introduced in 1938, and sanitary controls, foot-and-mouth disease has been excluded or eliminated from North and Central America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, and Ireland; and occurrences have become infrequent in Great Britain and continental Europe. The disease persists through much of Asia, Africa, and South America.


Though there have not been many recent events, there have been several instances of infectious diseases that have afflicted residents of Benton County through the years. In 1901, for example, there was a smallpox outbreak in the small community of Duelm. In 1908, the schools closed due to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever. During what is commonly referred to as the “Spanish Flu” influenza pandemic that struck most of the world as World War I came to a close, it is estimated that more than 548,000 people lost their lives to the disease in the United States alone. Benton County was greatly affected. The schools were closed, and there were 175 cases reported in the Foley area alone in October of 1918. Another influenza outbreak occurred in Benton County in early 1919. In 1925, another flu epidemic struck, this time raging through the northern parts of the county.

Tuberculosis is another disease that has affected Benton County. The first antituberculosis program began in Benton County in 1911. In 1929, a County-Wide Free Chest Clinic with a tuberculosis expert was arranged to combat the problem. In 1942, all schoolchildren in Benton County were tested for this respiratory disease. Yet another infectious disease that has affected the county is polio. The Benton County Fair was cancelled in 1946 because of Polio concerns, and Foley closed its public swimming pool because of the disease.


Infection rates and exposure risk will vary based on the disease, sanitation habits of individuals and personal choices. Large population concentrations and sites with large numbers of people are especially at risk in the event of an outbreak.

Effects on people

Benton County’s entire population is susceptible to exposure from an infectious disease because of the random nature of diseases. However, the risk is considered very low throughout the county because of good prevention programs and quality health care. Certain groups of people such as the elderly, the very young, and hospitalized or institutionalized people are at greater risk than the general public. Even for these people the risk is considered low to very low. The greatest risk would be in cities, where population density is the highest.

Health care providers, teachers and other public service providers such as police, fire and emergency response personnel also could be affected. Although the risk might be no greater for these groups of people, the impact on the community would be much greater.

An infectious disease outbreak, especially one that occurred over an extended period of time, could have drastic economic consequences for the region. An infectious disease outbreak may cause wide spread absenteeism throughout the public sector, indirectly affecting infrastructure. An infectious disease outbreak might affect such highly specialized health and non-health sector workers in the police, fire, public works, emergency response, utility, transportation workers. Schools could be closed if a large number of teachers or students were infected.

The risks associated with an outbreak of infectious disease is tremendous, particularly given the mobility of the population of the United States, and the world. What could start as a small epidemic could easily become a tremendous problem and spiral even into a worldwide pandemic. Livestock populations also are at risk to certain infectious diseases like mad cow and hoof and mouth diseases.

Radiological Incident

A radiological incident can be defined as unintentional exposure to materials that emit ionizing radiation. The primary radiological hazards are the health effects resulting from unintentional exposure to ionizing radiation. When radiation interacts with atoms, energy is deposited, resulting in “ionization,” or electron excitation. This ionization may damage certain critical molecules or structures in a cell. Ionizing radiation is emitted from molecular elements generally referred to as radionuclides, and this radiation has the ability to alter in varying amounts the function of living processes at the cellular level. Nuclear power plants are a significant potential source of ionizing radiation. The health and environmental impacts from the Three-Mile Island and the Chernobyl, Russia disasters illustrate the potential hazards from nuclear power plants. Other sources of ionizing radiation include medical and diagnostic X-ray machines, certain surveying instruments, some imaging systems used to check pipelines, radioactive sources used to calibrate radiation detection instruments, and even some household fire detectors.

Source: Minnesota Hazard Mitigation Plan


There have been no instances of radiological incidents in Benton County.

Risk Assessment

  • Effects on agriculture. Benton County is within the “plume zone” of the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant. Agriculture, both livestock and crops, would be primarily affected.
  • Effects on people and housing. With sufficient warning, the residents of Benton County would be able to shelter in place and would not be exposed to extreme danger in the event of a radiological incident at the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant.