The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 17:03:09 -0400
Subject: [ImitaPo]  Fwd: anthrax Q&A from RU expert

Imitation Poetics

This was sent by my employers Office of Public Affairs. My employer, The
Rockefeller University, is a well respected biomedical research university,
and I thought that this information might be helpful to people.


 >Rockefeller University Professor Vincent Fischetti, who for 40 years has
 >been studying gram-positive bacteria including anthrax-related
 >organisms, was interviewed this afternoon by Communications and Public
 >Affairs. No one at Rockefeller Hospital has anthrax. And no faculty
 >member, student or staff employee is suspected of having the disease by
 >the university's medical experts. However, realizing that many people on
 >the campus are concerned, Communications and Public Affairs is sending
 >today this information scheduled for publication in next week's News and
 >1. What is anthrax? It's a disease caused by the Bacillus anthracis, a
 >gram-positive spore forming bacterium.
 >2. What are spores? The dormant state of the bacterium which the
 >organism undergoes when the environment is not suitable for growth. The
 >bacterium can be sustained for decades in this form. It has been said
 >that spores can last over 100 years in the soil.
 >3. Is there soil with anthrax in the US? The spores rarely can be found
 >in the soil here. When anthrax occurs in this country, it primarily
 >occurs in animals that come in contact with spores in soil. No more than
 >100 animals a year are diagnosed with the disease.
 >4. How do anthrax spores get into the soil? When an infected animal dies
 >and its carcass is not removed from the soil, the spores that are formed
 >in the carcass enter the soil.  The next animal that comes in contact
 >with that soil may develop anthrax.
 >5. What about pets? Can they develop anthrax, and can we get it from
 >them? First, anthrax is not a contagious disease. Second, rarely do pets
 >come in contact with the soil in rural areas that may be contaminated
 >with the spores.
 >6. Since anthrax is not contagious, I suppose you can not develop the
 >disease from touching someone with the cutaneous form of anthrax? To
 >become infected from such contact, the organisms from that wound would
 >need to come in direct contact with a scratch or cut on your skin. That
 >would be difficult to do.
 >7. How common is anthrax - that is, before the cases in Florida and the
 >one that reportedly has occurred here in NYC at NBC-TV, has anyone in
 >the U.S. developed anthrax in recent years? Very few cases have been
 >occurring in the US. When they do occur, it's usually in rural areas as
 >a result of exposure to soil or carcasses infected with the spores.
 >8. What about if you eat meat from a carcass that was contaminated? You
 >can develop intestinal  anthrax, which can be fatal in about 50 percent
 >of cases.
 >9. What is inhaled anthrax? The most serious form of the disease, it
 >requires about 10,000 spores to develop. These spores must be inhaled
 >into the  lungs. The spore is then carried from lungs to lymph nodes in
 >macrophages, and this is where they germinate into the actual vegetative
 >form of the bacterium. The bacteria grow in the lymph nodes and spread
 >into blood, producing toxins that ultimately cause shock and death.
 >Inhaled anthrax is usually 100 percent fatal unless treated early.
 >10. How difficult would it be for a terrorist to infect Americans with
 >the spores? Widespread  dissemination  of the spores would be difficult.
 >One would have to retrofit a crop duster airplane with a large
 >concentration of the spores, and have perfect wind conditions to blow
 >the spores into urban areas, so that a cloud of dust of spores would be
 >concentrated there. Infecting lots of people would be very hard to do.
 >What is more likely is the occurrence of a few cases here and there
 >throughout the country.
 >11. What is cutaneous anthrax? It can occur when a person with a skin
 >lesion or scratch comes in contact with the spores. Local inflammation
 >develops. The inflamed area becomes crusted over by a black scab - which
 >is very distinctive. Fatality is 20 percent if untreated.
 >12. When do scabs develop? A few days after inflammation.
 >13. What is the treatment? An antibiotic such as Cipro is recommended.
 >14. What should I do to protect myself and my family from exposure to
 >anthrax? There is nothing you can do. The spores are so small you can't
 >see them in the air. It is not like  dust in your house.
 >You have to lead your life. Terrorists can achieve their goals of
 >causing mass panic, major declines in economy, etc., by just targeting a
 >few people. That may be what they are doing.
 >15. What are you doing to protect yourself? Nothing.
 >16. Can you develop inhaled anthrax by breathing the air around someone
 >who has cutaneous anthrax? No, there are no spores released in cutaneous
 >17. Could a terrorist deposit the anthrax spores over food, at a buffet,
 >or at the butcher store, and cause anthrax infection in people who eat
 >the food? Yes, one could get intestinal   anthrax that way. It is about
 >50 percent fatal if not treated properly.
 >18. What do anthrax spores look like? You can't see the individual
 >spores since with the naked eye they are each less than one micron in
 >size. To see them, the spores have to be concentrated - in the tens of
 >19. How does someone feel who develops inhaled anthrax? Flu like
 >symptoms occur in first couple of days. There is trouble breathing. Soon
 >after the breathing problems occur, the individual goes into shock
 >because of the toxin produced by the organism.
 >20. Does the person develop all the typical symptoms of the flu:
 >fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms, or just
 >some of them? All of these symptoms could develop.
 >21. What should I do if I believe I've been exposed, or may have it?
 >Contact your physician.

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