Anthrax Letters Essay

1261 words - 6 pages

Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center September 11, 2001 there began a rash of Anthrax laced letters being sent through the United States Postal System. This form of Anthrax was sent as spores known as Bacillus Anthracis, the type of bacterium that causes Anthrax. This terrorist style act resulted in 22 cases of disease and 5 deaths (Walsh, Skane 2011).
Anthrax is an extremely life threatening disease. It is a hard working and thorough bacterium. This bacterium becomes dormant and spore like when it lacks a host or is placed in danger by its surrounding environment, such as extreme temperature variations. In this form, it can survive for decades at a time until it has a new host to attach itself to. Once Anthrax has a new host, it begins to reproduce and spread at a high rate of speed. Agricultural areas are the place that Anthrax is usually found in abundance often infecting animals such as cattle and sheep amongst others. Humans can contract Anthrax in ways such as handling of the infected livestock or items that have come in contact with the infected animals or by inhaling the spores from the animal by products. This is most commonly known as Cutaneous Anthrax (Walsh, Skane 2011).
The first victim of the 2001 Anthrax attacks was Claire Fletcher. She was an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting system in New York City. Claire’s symptoms included nausea and facial swelling. Later her symptoms were confirmed to be caused by Cutaneous Anthrax. After being provided proper medical attention, Claire made a full recovery. On October 4, 2001, Robert Stevens of the Sun newspaper in Boca Raton Florida was exposed to a form of Inhalation Anthrax and died the following day. Five letters in all were sent out, one to the American Broadcasting Company, one to National Broadcasting Company, CBS, The New York Post, The National Enquirer, and the American Media. All five letters were post marked from Trenton, New Jersey. Additionally, two more letters were sent to the Washington DC offices of Senator Tom Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy (Embar 2009). These two letters were also post marked from Trenton, New Jersey. The letter sent to Senator Daschle’s office was opened by his aide and found to contain a more severe form of Anthrax than all of the previous letters. In the early news reports, it was said to have been “Weapons form Anthrax” (Embar 2009). The first Anthrax victim was not indentified until 1 October 2001, but it is believed by the authorities that it all began when the letters were first sent out on the 18th of September 2001. This set off a shutdown of the United States Postal Service in response to the attacks. The letter to Leahy wasn’t found until 16 November, 2001. This one had been sent to the wrong zip code and was then placed into an impounded bag. Rough estimates have placed the cleanup cost into the one billion dollar range (Embar 2009).
During the ongoing investigation of the Anthrax attacks, the FBI dubbed this...

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