Anthrax: What Is It All About

As with most people, I did not know that much about Anthrax before. I knew that the Military was attempting to vaccinate the whole army and presumably the Air Force and Navy as well, but had only managed to inoculate 25% of the armed forces before the anthrax factory was closed down for not conforming to FDA regulations. On top of that, many people in the armed forces questioned being vaccinated for anthrax, concerned about possible health risks from the vaccine.

So, the big question is, how dangerous is anthrax really and what are the possibilities of any of us being exposed to it. I recently received an email about anthrax that disputes much of the current media discourse on the subject. In the email it stated that contrary to some "experts" who spoke on 60 minutes saying that you could make anthrax and other biological weapons in your back yard with a five gallon bucket, it is in fact extremely difficult and expensive to make anthrax in a form that would be dangerous to large amounts of people.

The reason for this, it is claimed, is that it has to be converted to a powder form which can be inhaled. Anthrax in a liquid form is ineffective. Anthrax normally attacks the lungs, as it has to lodge in vulnerable tissue. It can invade through cuts and undercooked meat but that is not relevant to biowarfare. Anthrax is a "gram positive" bacterium. This means it has cell walls which are harmless, unlike the cell walls of "gram negative" bacteria, which attack cells. Therefore, anthrax can only attack tissue by producing a special toxin, which it excretes. One cell or spore does not produce enough toxin to start an infection. Apparently, up to ten thousand spores must be inhaled to start an infection.

Anthrax is found commonly in livestock. As anthrax spores are found in the ground, where they can live for up to twenty years, it is usually only animals which eat from the ground that get infected, or humans that work with hides or wool and only then when inhaled in large enough amounts.

So, according to the document I received, to be used as a biological weapon, the spores would have to be converted into a dry powder and then a distribution method would have to be found to create an aerosol affect that could contaminate large groups of people. This, according to the document, is extremely difficult, technically complex and very expensive. It would be beyond the capacity of anybody but a government with large amounts of money and skill. The only countries able to do this are the USA and Russia.

The only way Iraq or another country could have received it is if the USA or Russia gave it to them. In fact, the USA was giving Anthrax and other high-grade weaponry to Iraq right up until the time Hussein decided to invade Kuwait. Ironically, it was George Bush Senior who was at the helm when this was going on.

So, the only anthrax that Iraq could have is in a liquid form, unless the USA gave it in a dry form, but even then Iraq does not have an effective method of airborne dissemination. In a liquid form on top of a missile, it will be virtually harmless. The same is true for Bin Laden and other terrorist networks. Sending it in envelopes is one thing, but that would only affect individuals, not large numbers of people, and even then it is unlikely to have that serious an effect. Anthrax is not a contagious disease. Giving it to one person does not spread the disease to other people unless they come into contact with the anthrax itself. Up until now, the effect of the envelopes found has been to create mass fear and hysteria, perhaps the real desired effect.
Another reason why anthrax is not such a good biological weapon is that it is quite easily treated with antibiotics, but this is we enter another interesting area. An FDA advisory committee recommended that only Cipro, an antibiotic owned and patented by the German pharmeutical giant Bayer, should be used for anthrax. Cipro is a very expensive antibiotic, apparently costing people up to $700 for two months supply. However, nowhere is it written that Cipro is particularly effective in the treatment of anthrax, and in fact a number of other much cheaper antibiotics are likely to be just as effective in treating the condition. So, although the events over the last week of anthrax outbreaks may well be linked to the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, the extraordinary hype in the media and the bizarre recommendation of only one very expensive antibiotic does raise questions. Bayer must be quite happy.

If what I have been reading and relating to you is correct, then the media is involved in an extraordinary collusion of misinformation, spreading fear and terror unnecessarily throughout the country. Whilst we all have justified fears of biological weapons and knowing the intention of fanatical groups throughout the world, our government and media should at least tell us the facts of what is going on and not distort the real risks of contamination. There may be other more dangerous biological weapons out there, but apparently anthrax is not one of them.