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> Anthrax as a Biological Warfare Agent
> * Anthrax is the preferred biological warfare agent because:
> * It is highly lethal.
> * 100 million lethal doses per gram of anthrax material (100,000
> times deadlier than the deadliest chemical warfare agent).
> * Silent, invisible killer.
> * Inhalational anthrax is virtually always fatal.
> * There are low barriers to production.
> * Low cost of producing the anthrax material.
> * Not high-technology. Knowledge is widely available.
> * Easy to produce in large quantities.
> * It is easy to weaponize.
> * It is extremely stable. It can be stored almost indefinitely as a
> dry powder.
> * It can be loaded, in a freeze-dried condition, in munitions or
> disseminated as an aerosol with crude sprayers.
> * Currently, we have a limited detection capability.
> * What is Anthrax?
> * Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease of plant eating animals
> (goats, sheep, cattle, wine, etc.) caused by the bacterium
> Bacillus anthracis.
> * It is an illness which has been recognized since antiquity.
> Anthrax was common in essentially all areas where livestock are
> raised. Intensive livestock immunization programs have greatly
> reduced the occurrence of the disease among both animals and
> humans in much of the world, an most outbreaks occur in areas
> where immunization programs have not been implemented or have
> become compromised (primarily Africa and Asia; however, outbreaks
> occurred during the mid- I 990's in Haiti and the former Soviet
> * Anthrax spores can remain viable for several decades under
> suitable environmental conditions; thus, absence of cases does not
> equate to absence of risk.
> * Humans can contract anthrax in three ways:
> * Through cuts or breaks in the skin resulting from contact with an
> infected animal (cutaneous anthrax), resulting in local and
> possibly systemic (bloodstream) infection.
> * From breathing anthrax spores (termed "woolsorters" disease)
> resulting in an infection of the lungs (inhalational anthrax).
> * From eating infected meat, resulting in gastrointestinal infection
> (gastrointestinal anthrax). Gastrointestinal anthrax is generally
> not considered a threat to U.S. forces.
> * What are the symptoms?
> * Symptoms of anthrax begin after a 1 to 6 day incubation period
> following exposure.
> * For contact or cutaneous anthrax, itching will occur at the site
> of exposure followed by the formation of a lesion. Untreated
> contact anthrax has a fatality rate of 5-20 percent, but with
> effective antibiotic treatment, few deaths occur.
> * Initial symptoms for inhalational anthrax are generally
> non-specific: low grade fever, a dry hacking cough, and weakness.
> The person may briefly improve after 2 to 4 days; however within
> 24 hours after this brief improvement, respiratory distress occurs
> with shock and death following shortly thereafter.
> * Almost all cases of inhalational anthrax, in which treatment was
> begun after patients have exhibited symptoms, have resulted in
> death, regardless of post-exposure treatment.
> * What is the medical countermeasure?
> * Prior to exposure, prevention through vaccination, using the
> FDA-licensed vaccine.
> * Otherwise, antibiotics such as penicillin, ciprofloxacin, and
> doxycycline are the drugs of choice for treatment of anthrax.
> * Treatment with antibiotics must begin prior to the onset of
> symptoms and must include vaccination prior to discontinuing their
> * The use of antibiotics keep the patient alive until their body can
> build an immunity to anthrax via vaccination. After symptoms
> appear however, inhalational anthrax is almost always fatal,
> regardless of treatment.
> Updated: 10 Jun 1998
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