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Case of Anthrax Diagnosed in Florida:
October 4, 2001 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Case of Anthrax Diagnosed in Florida: A 63-year-old man has been hospitalized with pulmonary anthrax, Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan said Thursday. Anthrax has been developed by some countries as a possible biological weapon, but Brogan said there was no indication the illness was related to bioterrorism. If Al Qaeda hadn't been looking into renting those crop dusters out that way, I might be feel better about his assessment.
posted by ryanshepard (12 comments total)

 
er, that should be "I might be feeling better" - sorry.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:46 PM on October 4, 2001


Uh-oh.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2001


I found it interesting that this could be contracted naturally... A link for non-newyorktimes subscribers.
posted by racer271 at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2001


Some perspective from the Anthrax Vaccine FAQ:

Q: What is the risk of anthrax to me?

A: Anthrax is only deadly when you inhale a huge number of spores. Once the spores hit the ground, they stay there, so the risk from re-aerosolization is miniscule. In Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg) there was a large release of anthrax spores from a bioweapons factory, due to a faulty or missing filter, in 1979. Only 66 people in a town of more than 1 million died from anthrax, although the citizens were not notified of the release, and therefore did not receive prompt antibiotics or optimal medical therapy.

Anthrax does NOT spread from person to person. When it travels with the wind, it follows a narrow path, and does NOT spread out widely over long distances. That is why there were so few cases in Sverdlovsk. Workers in American factories that were grossly contaminated with anthrax spores, who inhaled hundreds of spores each day, almost never developed inhalation anthrax, the most deadly form of the disease.

Therefore, if anthrax is used, it will affect only a limited area, and relatively small numbers of people. It is a good terrorist weapon, as any use will strike terror in millions or billions of people. But it is a BAD weapon if you are trying to inflict a massive amount of casualties.

Q: But I heard that 50 kilograms released over NYC could kill millions?

A: You could only achieve massive casualties if you had a plane going back and forth over NYC, making multiple loops over the city, with the wind exactly right. This would require that we lose control of the air space over our cities.

Q: But couldn't anthrax be released without detection, and we would have no warning until people started dying?

A: Sensors have been developed, and have been deployed, to detect such releases. There are relatively simple devices that can tell if unusual numbers of organisms are in the air. Hopefully these devices will be put in the right places and provide us adequate warning of an attack.
posted by waxpancake at 2:00 PM on October 4, 2001


During the 20th century, only 18 cases of inhaled anthrax have been reported in the United States, the most recent in 1976. That is spooky.
posted by SuperBreakout at 2:03 PM on October 4, 2001


in the article waxpancake cited, i found the most comforting facts were:

1) Anthrax is only deadly when you inhale a huge number of spores. Once the spores hit the ground, they stay there, so the risk from re-aerosolization is miniscule.

2)If you are in the vicinity of an attack, the best protection is to get inside and close all windows and doors. As long as you do not breathe in the tens of thousands or more spores required to induce illness, you will be fine.

it sounds as though anthrax isn't a terribly effective weapon of mass destruction
posted by chacal at 2:03 PM on October 4, 2001


Let's PANIC!
posted by dfowler at 2:14 PM on October 4, 2001


The Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies is less optimistic:


Given appropriate weather and wind conditions, 50 kilograms of anthrax released from an aircraft along a 2 kilometer line could create a lethal cloud of anthrax spores that would extend beyond 20 kilometers downwind. The aerosol cloud would be colorless, odorless and invisible following its release. Given the small size of the spores, people indoors would receive the same amount of exposure as people on the street.


There are currently no atmospheric warning systems to detect an aerosol cloud of anthrax spores. The first sign of a bioterrorist attack would most likely be patients presenting with symptoms of inhalation anthrax.


Can anyone find authoritative information on the re-aerosolization statement? The rest of the Johns Hopkins statement is here.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:28 PM on October 4, 2001


As an additional item of interest, a box with the word "ANTHRAX" was found in a mailbox in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Then again, folks out here have been scrambling to find the "local connection" with The Current Situation. It's been somewhat amusing at times.
posted by eilatan at 2:41 PM on October 4, 2001


I'm sorry I don't have a link for this (it predates my modem by all too many years for that) but sometime back in the sixties or seventies, a knitter came down with anthrax, from yarn that came from infected sheep, apparently. The yarn shipment was tracked down & neutralized; the knitter survived. Of course, that was back before the CDC had been politicized & gutted.
posted by realjanetkagan at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2001


Sensors have been developed, and have been deployed, to detect such releases. There are relatively simple devices that can tell if unusual numbers of organisms are in the air.

Hmm...wonder if Sharper Image carries these yet?
posted by rushmc at 5:33 PM on October 4, 2001


"This would require that we lose control of the air space over our cities. "

thank god that can NEVER HAPPEN TO US!
posted by jcterminal at 5:53 PM on October 4, 2001


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