Anthrax is a disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a germ that lives in soil. Many people know about it from the 2001 bioterror attacks. In the attacks, someone purposely spread anthrax through the U.S. mail. This killed five people and made 22 sick.
Anthrax is rare. It affects animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats more often than people. People can get anthrax from contact with infected animals, wool, meat, or hides. It can cause three forms of disease in people. They are
• Cutaneous, which affects the skin. People with cuts or open sores can get it if they touch the bacteria.
• Inhalation, which affects the lungs. You can get this if you breathe in spores of the bacteria.
• Gastrointestinal, which affects the digestive system. You can get it by eating infected meat.
Antibiotics often cure anthrax if it is diagnosed early. But many people don't know they have anthrax until it is too late to treat. A vaccine to prevent anthrax is available for people in the military and others at high risk. Source: MedlinePlus
Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in U.S. history.
The ensuing investigation by the FBI and its partners—code-named “Amerithrax”—has been one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.
In August 2008, Department of Justice and FBI officials announced a breakthrough in the case and released documents and information showing that charges were about to be brought against Dr. Bruce Ivins, who took his own life before those charges could be filed. On February 19, 2010, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service formally concluded the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks and issued an Investigative Summary.
The Amerithrax Task Force—which consisted of roughly 25 to 30 full-time investigators from the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and other law enforcement agencies, as well as federal prosecutors from the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section—expended hundreds of thousands of investigator work hours on this case. Their efforts involved more than 10,000 witness interviews on six different continents, the execution of 80 searches, and the recovery of more than 6,000 items of potential evidence during the course of the investigation. The case involved the issuance of more than 5,750 grand jury subpoenas and the collection of 5,730 environmental samples from 60 site locations. In addition, new scientific methods were developed that ultimately led to the break in the case—methods that could have a far-reaching impact on future investigations. Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation.