Anthrax: An Attack Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4898 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 18  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Disease

The most recent outbreak of anthrax in the United States was during the fall of 2001. This was no typical anthrax outbreak, as it was not caused in the typical way from exposure to infected animals. This outbreak of anthrax was the result of an intentional attack. Anthrax spores were mailed to various locations through the U.S. postal system. This means that someone had to intentionally grow and cultivate the anthrax spores in their own lab. The fact that the anthrax spores implicated in the outbreak were of a highly refined variety created further proof that the attack was intentional. This person actually placed anthrax spores in envelopes and sent them through the mail.

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Whoever his or her intended victims were, a number of postal workers contracted the disease from handling contaminated mail. Because the infections occurred in more than one state, the Federal Bureau of Investigations were called in to investigate the case. Because the case involved intentional infection with an infectious agent, epidemiologists were brought in to the investigation, as well. These epidemiologists were from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. The epidemiologists in this case played a unique role, one that was quite different from that of the FBI. While the FBI worked to determine who perpetrated this crime, with the intention of prosecuting this person, the epidemiologists tried to figure out what went wrong in the environments that experienced outbreaks, in order to determine what allowed the disease to take hold. The epidemiologists wanted to first contain the outbreak and then educate people on what to do in order to prevent another outbreak from occurring in the future. These containment and education efforts involve the general public by necessity, whereas the investigation by the FBI was largely conducted in secret ("American Anthrax Outbreak of 2001," n.d.).

Term Paper on Anthrax: An Attack on the Assignment

The Centers for Disease Control were especially open and helpful in informing the general public about the ongoing status of the anthrax investigation and about efforts to contain it. While these reports certainly may have contributed to some fear and concern in the general population, they also went a long way toward alleviating some fears associated with the outbreak, as the reports allowed people to see just where and how the disease was being spread, and let people know what they could do to decrease their own chances of getting infected. For example, the first person to become infected with anthrax in the most recent outbreak was a sixty-three-year-old man who lived and worked in Florida ("Notice to Readers," 2001).. This man worked in a news media outlet which had been mailed an envelope containing anthrax spores. This man contracted the inhaled form of anthrax, and subsequently died. The Centers for Disease Control offered antibiotic treatment to anyone who had been inside of this man's office building for more than one hour since August first of that year. The Centers for Disease Control also informed the public of what the symptoms of inhaled anthrax were, so that people could be vigilant and aware of what to look for.

Another report was released by the Centers for Disease Control shortly after the first report, giving the public an update into the situation and the ongoing investigations surrounding it. In this second report, the public was informed for the first time that the anthrax case was not isolated and was probably intentional. By this time, anthrax cases had sprung up from Florida to New York. This was so unusual, and the victims so unlikely, that an intentional anthrax attack was the only plausible explanation for the situation. This new report also informed the public on how anthrax is tested for in the laboratory. Additionally, the public was informed that the home, travel destinations, and workplace of the initial victim were thoroughly investigated and tested for anthrax, with the results being that the home and travel destinations tested negative for anthrax, while the workplace, particularly the mail room area, tested positive ("Update," 2001) as the first solid proof that the anthrax was sent through the mail.

The third report from the Centers for Disease Control revealed for the first time that postal workers in New Jersey had been infected with anthrax. These postal worker cases included three cases of cutaneous anthrax and one case of inhaled anthrax. The postal workers at this facility were found to have handled contaminated mail that eventually found its way to New York and Florida, to the places there where other anthrax cases were reported. This discovery of anthrax among postal workers prompted the closing of the New Jersey mail facility where the initial infections occurred, and touched off a nationwide inspection of postal facilities for anthrax spores.

Later, the report revealed, four cases of inhalation anthrax were reported at a Washington D.C. postal facility. The U.S. Capitol was also contaminated with anthrax from a tightly sealed letter that was opened in a senator's office. Over two dozen people who had been in or near that particular senator's office that day tested positive for exposure to anthrax. Later, two of the four inhalation anthrax cases from the Washington D.C. postal facility resulted in fatalities for the victims ("Update: Investigation," 2001). As a result, the postal facility at which the victims worked was closed for further testing and decontamination efforts.

In the fourth report released by the Centers for Disease Control regarding the anthrax case, it was revealed that most of the inhalation anthrax cases were present among postal workers. This report also included some statistical information concerning the inhalation anthrax cases. Some of these statistics were:

1) Median age of inhalation anthrax victims: 56.

2) Incubation period from exposure to onset of symptoms: 7 days

3) Initial illness characterized by: Fever, chills, severe fatigue, nonproductive cough.

4) White blood cell count: Normal or slightly elevated.

5) Chest x-ray: Abnormal (though two patients initially had normal x-rays).

6) Number of inhalation anthrax patients: 10

7) Number of survivals: 6

Statistics were also included for the cutaneous anthrax patients. These statistics show:

1) Initial incubation period from exposure to onset of symptoms: 5 days

2) Location of lesions: forearm, neck, chest, and fingers.

3) Number of cases: 11

4) Number of survivals: 11

5) Occupations of patients: 4 mail handlers, 6 employees or visitors to media outlets, 1 bookkeeper ("Update: Investigation of Bio," 2001).

The next report from the Centers for Disease Control reported that one more person had developed cutaneous anthrax. This person worked at a media company. This report also revealed for the first time the adverse side effects that could occur when antibiotic therapy was given for anthrax exposure. Surveys were given to those who were taking antibiotics after being exposed to anthrax. The answers reported on these surveys revealed that side effects were common under this treatment, with approximately sixty-two percent of anti-biotic patients reporting some side effect or other from the antibiotic therapy ("Update: Prophylaxis," 2001).

The most commonly reported side effects of the anti-biotic therapy were itching, difficulty breathing, swelling of face, swelling of neck, swelling of throat, and seeking medical attention for unspecified side effects. Six people reported going off of the antibiotics due to adverse side effects. The frequency of side effects due to the antibiotics shows that there is a danger in the current treatment for anthrax, and makes it questionable as to whether antibiotic therapy should be the first way to go in treating anthrax exposure. This raises the question as to whether a wait-and-see approach might be preferable, if not to mention safer.

By this time, the Centers for Disease Control had developed a system for people to call in and report suspected cases of anthrax. This proved to be a popular system, as it received a lot of calls. Most of the calls received regarding potential threats were from health care workers (over forty percent). Fourteen percent of calls were from local of state health departments. Fourteen percent of calls were from private citizens, and seven percent of calls were from police, fire, and emergency response teams. In response to the calls, the Centers for Disease Control supplied information, assisted in diagnosis, and dispatched epidemiologists to suspected contamination sites ("Update: Adverse Events," 2001).

The sixth report from the Centers for Disease Control revealed more information about who should be treated for anthrax exposure. However, the seventh report revealed the details of the newest anthrax case, which arose out of suspicious circumstances in Connecticut. In this case, a ninety-four-year-old woman presented with inhalation anthrax. However, no one could determine at first just how she got the disease, since she did not work and rarely left her home. None of the tests done on her home or at the places she had visited revealed anthrax spores ("Update: Inhalation:, 2001). The patient later died from the inhalation anthrax, and the cause of her infection remained a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Anthrax: An Attack" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Anthrax: An Attack.  (2003, June 25).  Retrieved January 21, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Anthrax: An Attack."  25 June 2003.  Web.  21 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Anthrax: An Attack."  June 25, 2003.  Accessed January 21, 2021.