The Affects of Anthrax on America
Anthrax in the United States is a relatively new problem. The most notable attack on American citizens happened in 2001, a week after the September 11th Attacks. This caused lasting shockwaves in three areas of American life, the first and most concerning was public health. Secondly, it caused drastic changes in crisis management, containment, and decontamination when dealing with biological warfare. Thirdly, and possibly longest lasting, it effected the way politicians viewed our domestic security and therefore their policy making was heavily focused on bioterrorism. These attacks made the general population of America fear their mail, because it could be the letter that killed them. They feared the Middle East, because if the allegations were correct, they were unleashing their entire arsenal on the U.S. Finally they feared that their American way of life was about to change dramatically.
This weaponized disease is naturally able to withstand harsh climates for centuries in some cases. This makes it an extremely effective bio-weapon, because climate and environment have virtually no bearing on its infectiousness. On the topic of infectiousness, anthrax spores only need to be inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with an open sore to come out of their dormant state and rapidly multiply. 68 people were harmed by these attacks according to a study in 2004. The majority of people targeted were higher ups in the American news and political world. News anchors, senators, and periodical editors were all subject to receiving a letter stuffed with anthrax. Robert Stevens was the first person to die the painful death associated with anthrax on October 5th, 2001 due to the attacks. The symptoms of anthrax are different depending on which strain you contract. Some strains cause large festering lesions on the skin that discolor a large portion of the body. Other strains cause vomiting of blood, severe diarrhea, loss of appetite and lesions in the mouth and throat. Still another strain affects the respiratory system causing pneumonia and deadly respiratory collapse. Years later several victims claimed lasting effects such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and even memory loss. The sad fact is that the U.S. had a working vaccine long before these attacks.
The only anthrax vaccine still approved by the FDA had been around since the 1960’s, but it was not commonly administered outside of the military due to the rarity of the disease. They’re vaccination was mandatory on and off throughout history. This requirement was subject to several law suits, accounting for its sporadic enforcement. Many people seemed to think that the vaccine risk was disproportionate to the risk of actually contracting the disease. They simply were not that worried about anthrax because they had not yet been subjected to the horror of a bio-terrorism attack. This societal apathy, and even some mild hostility, lead to the unpreparedness with which the United States reacted from a containment standpoint. This type of disease containment was relatively new to the United States. Never before had they had to deal with random outbreaks caused directly by terrorists. One of the reasons biological warfare is so effective is because of the ease with which pathogens can be concealed. Combine that with the current crisis regarding September 11th, and you see how the nation’s reaction might not have been the most well prepared, well thought out, or effective anti-terrorism efforts. Two investigations were launched, one was a police investigation, and the other was epidemiological. The former was searching for those responsible for these attacks. The latter was looking into the disease itself and determining how it became an issue for humans. Unlike the police, the epidemiologist tries as hard as he or she can to keep the public up to date with their research and latest findings. This was vital to combating anthrax because the