Anthrax is a bacterium often found in soil, according to Jerrold Leikin, a doctor who co-edited a book on “toxico-terrorism”. Its spores are one to five microns across – small enough to get into human lungs. The initial symptoms of infection look like flu, but quickly progress to sepsis, hemorrhagic meningitis and death. Once it progresses to those last stages, the fatality rate is around 95%.
Over the last few weeks, it was revealed, anthrax was sent to 52 laboratories in 18 states plus South Korea, Canada and Australia. Thirty-one people received treatment for possible exposure. In 2014, a similar incident saw 75 people possibly exposed to the pathogen.
The difference is this: the first incident was a terrorist attack. The second and third were accidents. The post-9/11 era saw a huge expansion in the security state. The bioweapon industry was no different. After the 2001 anthrax attacks – known to some as “Amerithrax” – there was a 20- to 40-fold increase in the number of institutions and individuals working with biological weapon agents like anthrax, according to Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist and biosecurity expert at Rutgers university. There is no official government body to oversee production and research of bioweapons that does not – as the CDC does – engage in its own active pathogen research, and no apparent fixed official guidelines regarding their handling.
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