Information About Anthrax and Other Potential
Bioterrorist Weapons (November 2001)
Because of the events our nation has recently experienced, many
people have raised questions and concerns about anthrax and other potential
biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. In response to these concerns,
below is some basic information about anthrax and smallpox. The following
information briefly touches upon the two topics and it is recommended that you
visit the links below to obtain more comprehensive information.
Anthrax is a disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus
anthracis. It most commonly occurs in hoofed mammals, but also can infect
humans. Anthrax infection can typically occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin),
inhalation, and intestinal. Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is
extremely unlikely to occur and has not been reported.
Initial symptoms of inhalation anthrax resemble those of a
common cold, but can progress rapidly to respiratory distress and shock. Certain
antibiotics can be used to treat inhalation anthrax; however, in order to be
most effective, treatment should be initiated early. Cutaneous anthrax initially
appears as a raised, itchy bump, but eventually develops into a painless ulcer
with a black center. Left untreated, cutaneous anthrax can result in death;
however, deaths are rare with appropriate treatment.
Smallpox, unlike anthrax, is viral and can be spread from person
to person by infected saliva droplets. On average, it takes about 12 days from
the time a person is exposed to the virus for symptoms to develop. Initial
symptoms include high fever, fatigue, and head and back aches. After about 2-3
days of the development of the initial symptoms, a characteristic rash will
appear. The majority of patients with smallpox recover, but death may occur in
up to 30% of cases.
More information about anthrax and other potential bioterrorist
weapons can be found in the following resources:
U.S. Postal Service:
April 17, 2018