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Historically significant events propagated by bioaerosols include the Irish Potato Famine, the Bubonic Plague, and the 1918 Influenza outbreak. More recent events include the risk of bioterrorism using pathogenic bioaerosols, as well potential for epidemics transmitted by the airborne route. The anthrax attacks in the United States during the fall of 2001 killed five people and sickened another 17. The recent outbreaks of Avian Flu and the transmission of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) have similarly piqued the world's interest in bioaerosols. Note the global extent of the SARS pandemic, as shown below in Figure 2. Although these cases may be more extreme examples of the effects of bioaerosols, the potential devastation of bioterrorism or airborne diseases has brought the science of bioaerosols to the forefront of the scientific community.

Figure 2: Extent of SARS Pandemic.1 Click here to see a larger version.

1World Health Organization, 2003