Information about Anthrax
To date, only the United States
has been a target of anthrax attacks. These attacks have not been conclusively
linked to the terrorist attacks on September 11. Typically, these attacks have
been in the form of infected mail sent to media and government institutions.
Universities have not been targeted. As of October 25, three people have died
from anthrax, 13 have been infected and successfully treated and 28 others
have been exposed but not infected. To put this into perspective, in the U.S.,
over 20,000 people die every year from the flu. There have been no reported
cases of anthrax contaminated mail in Canada, although there have been about
70 false alarms or hoaxes reported across the country. Consequently, at this
time, the threat of anyone at Queen's University receiving contaminated mail
is virtually zero.
Other Ontario universities have
reported a number of false alarms and hoaxes. Since the anthrax infected mail
in the U.S. has been associated with a white dust or powder, drywall dust,
house dust, sugar and baby or talcum powder spills have all been reported to
campus authorities as possible anthrax cases. At one university, a student
sealed an envelope, wrote "anthrax" on it and slipped it under
another student's door in residence. When the Police, Fire department and
Hazmat (hazardous materials) Teams arrived, the student confessed what he had
done and is now awaiting criminal charges. At Queen's, the only anthrax
related incident to date was a chain e-mail that was sent to some campus
recipients titled "Anne Thrax". The e-mail said that the recipient
was contaminated and must send the e-mail to 10 other people to be
decontaminated. Of course, it is impossible to pass anthrax via e-mail.
About the Disease
Anthrax is the oldest known
disease in the world and is naturally occurring in the soil. The disease is
caused by the Bacillus anthacis bacteria, which is transmitted by spores. These
spores are exceptionally hardy, allowing them to survive for centuries. This
hardiness also makes them suitable for biological warfare as they are not
destroyed by heat, cold, sunlight or water like other biological agents.
The disease can be contracted
in three forms: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalation anthrax . It is not
contagious in any other manner.
Cutaneous anthrax occurs when
the spores enter a cut, scrape or sore in the skin. The disease initially
manifests as a dark, itchy bump, like an insect bump. It then develops into an
open sore with a black center. The disease can be successfully treated with
antimicrobial drugs. Untreated, death may occur in about 20% of cases.
Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs
when the spores are ingested. The symptoms are nausea, vomiting, abdominal
cramps and diarrhea. The disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
If untreated, this form of anthrax may result in death in 20 to 60% of cases.
Inhalation anthrax occurs when
the spores are inhaled. It takes inhalation of approximately 5,000 to 10,000
spores to infect a healthy adult. Flu like symptoms (aches, fever, fatigue,
coughs, mild chest pain) develop soon after infection. If the condition is not
treated with antibiotics within the first few hours, death is likely to occur
within three days.
Health Canada Website - "Fact