What is Anthrax?
Anthrax is an acute and deadly disease caused by Bacillus anthracis; in general, the majority of these forms of these diseases are lethal and the virus ultimately affects both humans and other animals.
Anthrax became prominent in the early 2000’s when several human cases of anthrax were directly liked to deliberate and violent exposure. This string of events raised concerns about the use of anthrax as a biological weapon and as a means to perpetuate terrorist attacks. Anthrax, when broken down, makes an extremely effective biological weapon, since the spores of Anthrax can remain dormant for a number of years and activate as soon as conditions become optimal. As a result of these characteristics, it is very easy to contract the deadly disease through inhalation, which ultimately leads to the potential for mass dispersal through explosives, aircraft transportation or random package drops.
The Anthrax Disease:
The Anthrax disease has long been known, for writings and archaeological evidence suggest that the disease has been known since the Ancient World. The disease caused by Anthrax primarily affects farm animals; human beings cannot pass the Anthrax disease onto each, making the Anthrax disease non-contagious. That being said, it takes slight exposure to just a few spores to lead to a serious infection. Similar to other bacterial infections, Anthrax may be treated with antibiotics.
Kinds of Anthrax:
There are three specific kinds of Anthrax: gastrointestinal, inhalation and cutaneous. Gastrointestinal Anthrax is caused through ingestion of infectious material, such as raw or uncooked meats. The patient, when infected with gastrointestinal Anthrax may experience severe diarrhea, a loss of appetite, nausea and a severe fever. Cutaneous anthrax is primarily contracted through open wounds or cuts on the skin. This form of Anthrax is characterized by small sores which eventually turn into large blisters with a black center.
The most serious and complex form of Anthrax is inhalation Anthrax; this form of Anthrax is caused by inhaling infectious spores which may be stirred up in soil, deliberately introduced into the environment or scraped from animal material.
Anthrax as a Weapon of Terror:
Anthrax was initially tested as a biological weapon by the Japanese army in the early 1930s; the majority of this testing involved exposing the deadly agent to prisoners of war—this testing precipitated thousands of deaths.
Anthrax was first stockpiled by the United States in the early 1970s when the nation signed the Biological Weapons Convention.
In theory, the spores of Anthrax can be cultivated without the obtainment of specialized equipment; all an individual needs to cultivate the deadly agent is a microbiological education. That being said, to produce large amounts of aerosol from Anthrax suitable for biological warfare requires extensive knowledge, training and advanced equipment.
Concentrated anthrax spores were first used as a weapon for bioterrorism in the 2001 anthrax attacks; the spores were delivered by mail and sent to several media outlets as well as two Democratic senators. As a result of these attacks, 22 individuals were infected and five eventually died.
In response to these attacks, the United States postal service sterilized most forms of mail by using a process of gamma irradiation and treatment through a proprietary enzyme formula.