Biological Weapons --

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by spore-forming bacteria. For centuries, anthrax has caused disease in animals and, uncommonly, serious illness in humans throughout the world.

Research on anthrax as a biological weapon began more than 80 years ago. Today, at least 17 nations are believed to have offensive biological weapons programs; it is uncertain how many are working with anthrax. Iraq has acknowledged producing and weaponizing anthrax.

Anthrax in wild livestock does occur in the US. Its spores are very tenacious. They can live in soil and survive there at least 40 years and when animals feed, sometimes they ingest these spores.

Dermal Infection
They usually appear within 1-2, up to 7 days, but can take 14 days or as long as 60 days after exposure.

Respiratory: Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold including fever, malaise, fatigue and sometimes a dry cough. Then, there's often a period of improvement that lasts from a few hours to 2-3 days. That's followed by a crash -- trouble breathing, sweating, bluish colored skin. The patient usually goes into shock and dies 24-36 hours after the severe symptoms begin.

Dermal (Skin): 95% of infections occur when bacteria enter a cut or abrasion on the skin. It begins as a raised itchy bump like an insect bite. Within 1-2 days it changes into a painless blister, usually 1/3 - 1 inch across with a black center. Adjacent lymph glands may swell.

Intestinal: May follow eating contaminated meat and characterized by acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs: nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea.

NOTE: These types are all from the same spore. It is the point of entry into the body that determines the form the disease takes and ultimately, the likelihood of recovery.

How does it spread?

Anthrax spores

Anthrax is NOT contagious, meaning person-to-person. On the skin, it needs a place of entry like a cut, otherwise, it might not even be dangerous. However, to breathe it, could be fatal.

Humans can get anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by eating undercooked meat from infected animals or inhaling anthrax spores.

May be dispersed via aerosol remaining odorless and invisible with a potential to travel many miles before dissipating. The Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies says that, given the right weather and wind conditions, about 110 pounds of anthrax released from an aircraft could spread nearly 12 miles downwind. The cloud would be colorless, odorless and invisible. There currently are no warning systems to detect an aerosol cloud of anthrax spores – the attack would most likely not be discovered until patients showed up in hospitals.

And we all know it can be sent through the mail!

Diagnosis Anthrax is diagnosed by isolating the bacteria causing the disease from the blood, skin lesions, or respiratory secretions or by measuring specific antibodies in the blood. Nasal swabbing is one of the most common methods.

To be effective, treatment must be done early. This is especially true when anthrax spores have been inhaled.

Antibiotics (amoxycillin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin and gentamycin) treat skin and intestinal infections successfully, but respiratory anthrax is very hard to treat and nearly always fatal. Most natural strains of anthrax are sensitive to penicillin but some strains resist this antibiotic, so it is not a sure treatment.

Specifics on treatment can be found here


Is 93% effective. Current supply is reserved for military. Only one company manufactures the vaccine, BioPort, and this company can not presently meet FDA regulations due to packaging standards. A new FDA inspection is scheduled soon, but even if BioPort passes, it will be 6 months before more vaccine is available. When it does receive approval, the stock will only be available to the military.

Regardless of how it is stored, the anthrax vaccine's shelf life is guaranteed a maximum of 3 years from date of manufacture, but may last as long as 6 years.

Untreated, anthrax in all forms can lead to blood poisoning and death.

A lethal dose of inhaled anthrax is considered to be 10,000 spores, but may depending upon a person's immune system and state of health, that level might range up to 50,000 anthrax spores.

To put their size in perspective, one gram of anthrax culture contains a trillion spores, theoretically enough for 100 million fatal doses. The smaller the spores, the greater chance of infection.

Inhaled: Usually fatal.

Skin: Death is rare with appropriate antimicrobial therapy. It is fatal in 20% of untreated cases.

Intestinal: Fatality rate is 25-60%

Incineration of corpses is essential.


Federation of American Scientists;
CBS Bioterrorism Interactive;
The Facts About Anthrax; October 12, 2001;;
ANTHRAX - Ancient Disease Turned Biological Weapon; February 20, 1998;
Facing Down A Despot, America The Vulnerable; Novemver 24, 1997; VOL. 150 NO. 22


1. Anthrax spores are dormant forms of the bacteria and only germinate in a fertile environment. When inhaled, larger anthrax spores lodge in the upper respiratory tract, where they are less dangerous.

2. Inhaled spores that measure between 1 and 5 microns (one millionth of a meter) wide penetrate the tiny, capillary-rich sacs of the lung.

3. The immune system responds to the bacteria, destroying some spores, but carries others to the lymph nodes in the chest.

4. The spores germinate in the body. Within one day, or up to 60, anthrax bacteria multiplies, infecting chest tissues. At this point the disease rapidly develops.

5. When they infect chest tissue, bacteria produce toxins that enter the bloodstream. In the lungs, the toxins cause hemorrhaging, fluid collection and tissue death.

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