Anthrax, it's something that gets you sick, it's horrible, strong. It's a heavy-metal band name if there ever was one - Scott Ian


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When Anthrax-Laced Letters Terrorized the Nation

Feverish and delirious, Bob Stevens arrived at a Florida hospital in the early morning hours of October 2, 2001. The emergency room doctors thought the 62-year-old photojournalist might be suffering from meningitis.

But when an infectious disease specialist looked at Stevens’ spinal fluid under a microscope, he realized there was another, terrifying possibility. Lab tests confirmed it, and on October 4 Stevens was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax, a bacterial disease primarily found in livestock that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had recognized as a potential agent of bioterrorism.

Over the next two months, Stevens and four other people would die after inhaling…

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 When Anthrax-Laced Letters Terrorized the Nation

If the anthrax attacks of 2001 sharpened the nation’s focus on protecting itself against future acts of bioterrorism, that focus faltered in the decades that followed, says Cole. Immediately after the attacks, “we were on a rocketing upwards of concern, funding and preparedness and general awareness,” Cole says. “But as is part of human nature, I guess...the more distant you are from the actual time of the events, the less people will be concerned about it.”


Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax can be found naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world. Although it is rare, people can get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products.


B anthracis is found in soil in many areas of the world. Ecologic factors (such as abundant rainfall following a period of drought) may enhance spore density in soil, although the exact influence of such factors remains poorly understood.

Hardin MD

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Anthrax can be used as a weapon. In 2001, anthrax was spread through the mail in a powder. Twenty-two people were infected. The events that occurred in Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1979 demonstrate what can happen when anthrax is released into the air.


Anthrax is an often fatal bacterial infection that occurs when Bacillus anthracis endospores enter the body through abrasions in the skin or by inhalation or ingestion.1 It is a zoonosis to which most mammals, especially grazing herbivores, are considered susceptible. Human infections result from contact with contaminated animals or animal products, and there are no known cases of human-to-human transmission.


Anthrax is a rare but serious bacterial infection caused by the Gram-positive, spore-forming, bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Spores are very resistant to damage and can remain dormant in the soil for decades. It is primarily a disease of herbivorous mammals. The disease occurs most often in wild and domestic animals in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. Humans generally acquire the disease through contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. Symptoms usually develop within two days of exposure for inhalation anthrax and 1-7 days with cutaneous anthrax.

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