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Emotional and Behavioral Consequences of Bioterrorism: Planning a Public Health Response


Bradley D. Stein, RAND, 1700 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138 (e-mail:


Millions of dollars have been spent improving the public health system's bioterrorism response capabilities. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to precisely how the public will respond to bioterrorism and how emotional and behavioral responses might complicate an otherwise successful response. This article synthesizes the available evidence about the likely emotional and behavioral consequences of bioterrorism to suggest what decision makers can do now to improve that response. It examines the emotional and behavioral impact of previous “bioterrorism-like” events and summarizes interviews with experts who have responded to such events or conducted research on the effects of communitywide disasters. The article concludes by reflecting on the evidence and experts' perspectives to suggest actions to be taken now and future policy and research priorities.