Anthrax by Mail?

A second Anthrax exposure has been documented at “American Media” in Boca Raton Fla. Inspectors have also found spores in the building.

I got curious as to what “American Media” does, so I looked it up on the web. This is from a hiring website:

Now THAT is frightening. If someone broke in and dusted this place with Anthrax, it could wind up all over the country.

This just goes to prove how vulnerable our free society is. Why use a crop duster to spread anthrax? Just buy a mailing list of 10 million people, put some spores in each envelope, and use a mass mailing company to send them out. In three or four days, you have two million potential Anthrax outbreaks all across the United States and Canada.

Or, to the specific situation at hand, dust the print material at “American Media”, and you have the potential of Anthrax in every supermarket tabloid in the U.S.

Oh, and the employees exposed to anthrax worked in the mail room…

Comments? Is the smart thing to do now to throw out every piece of unsolicited mail unopened? And to hold off on buying nationally-distributed magazines and tabloids?

I think the contamination occurred at the offices, not the printing presses. Therefore, you can be fairly sure your favourite tabloid isn’t going to give you Anthrax. It’s not contagious person-to-person, so you don’t need to fear that either.

I’ve heard all kinds of crazy stories about this so far. The news that a suspicious letter and a weird middle eastern intern may be involved has just come to my attention, and I find it all very strange to say the least…

Some have speculated that the tabloid in question was targeted because they published full page stories insulting ObL’s manhood, but the mysterious letter arrived a week before Sept 11. Has this newspaper previously attacked ObL? Would he care enough to send someone out with Anthrax? It’s all very strange.

Following ObL’s comments on the 9/11 attacks possibly being the work of “disgruntled Jews in Florida”, the fact that Atta lived in Florida, and now this apparent bio attack in Florida, I’m kind of glad I’m not in that fine state right now. There seems to be an unhealthy interest in it.

Time for the latex gloves…

Well, before we shut down our entire society and go hunker down in the basement:

They’re checking out everybody who worked with the first guy, to see if they’re sick. This guy was in the hospital for something else, and a nasal swab from him tested positive for anthrax bacteria. But that doesn’t mean that he’s Anthrax Case #2.

I thought the point was that they’ve confirmed that he was exposed to it?

I know he’s not sick (as of now), and he’s on preventative medication, but they picked up spores from his nasal passages, confirming that he’d been exposed to the disease. As I understand it, that’s when the FBI came in.

The building looked like a small offfice building in an office park. I don’t think the magazines are printed there. The magazines would be printed in a large printing plant somewhere else (possibly somewhere else in the US). So there’s no reason to think that it would spread that way, although whoever sent the package knew that.

But I agree, it’s very frightening, and it’s safe to assume that whoever’s responsible has more anthrax to use elsewhere…


Sure, this may turn out to be nothing. But when I read what “American Media” does, it seemed to me to be an EXCELLENT distribution method for a biological attack.

Then I got to thinking that one of the ‘problems’ with Anthrax is that you either have to ingest it, or inhale it, or get it into a cut for it to be dangerous, which makes it hard to infect a lot of people. But what do many people do when they receive an envelope? They tear open the end, then BLOW in it to expand it. Instant inhalation/ingestion risk.

At the very least, I would suggest foregoing blowing into any junk mail envelopes for a couple of days until we find out what’s going on here.

Santos: The Building I saw on CNN with “American Media” on the side of it looked like a very large, multi-story building. At least 20,000 square feet.

Eh. I’m a microbiologist, and I have a hard time seeing this as a very efficient method of spreading anthrax. You have to breathe in quite a bit for it to make you sick, so you’d have to have a ton in the mail room if you were going to spread it that way. Probably everyone in there would be sick by now. But it’s possible, I suppose.

That’s great news, Smeghead.

Just how much anthrax would they need? I was under the impression that only a few spores could be fatal if ingested. How much volume of the stuff would be needed to put a potentially fatal amount in each envelope?

How many spores would be needed if ingested? I notice that this company is also the leading supermarket merchandizing company, which could suggest that someone could have gotten anthrax spores into things like mail-out product samples, or supermarket giveaway samples.

There just seems to be a lot of coincidences here. The building was only a mile away from where the lead hijacker was taking flight training. And if you need a person to break into a company and spread anthrax around, who better than someone who is going to commit suicide in the next couple of days? Then you don’t have to worry about protecting the man.

From here:

(Bolding mine.)

…that the spores came in on a letter about–not making this up–Jennifer Lopez, and that the letter had a Star of David on it. How do they know this was the letter, you ask? There was a fine powder in the envelope. Gee, I know if there was a Big Jewish Conspiracy[sup]TM[/sup] to spread anthrax, the Jews would be sure to put Stars of David all over all the paraphanalia. What is this obsession by the terrorists to blame the Jews for what they do? Does anyone with a double digit IQ believe this crap?

Something tells me a TON of urban legends are going to come cascading from this story.

One good thing that might come out of this- it may kill off the junk mail industry! :cool:

Well there was a rumour that Israelis were responsible for the September 11th attacks (under the assumption that everyone would immediately blame Arab Muslims). Maybe the real terrorists are unaware of how ridiculous this idea seems to most of us and decided to try to give the rumour a bit more substance?

Well, this is starting to sound a little bit more serious. This was on the MSNBC/Newsweek website this morning.

The whole article is pretty good, and doesn’t sound too hysterical. So, hmm… [shrug]

But is it time to go buy a gas mask? I don’t think so.

This article should help put your mind at ease:

The gist of it is, yeah there’s terrorists that are working on all of these things, but it’s really hard to pull off.

But as this thread shows, if a terrorist mailed a letter with anthrax on it and managed to get one person infected, it can easily spread terror throughout the country despite only killing a few people.

I also heard a horrific scenario by Gerald Posner on the History Channel where a terrorist could, being a martyr, infect himself with smallpox or plague, fly all over the United States as patient zero and then were really fucked since it would be much harder to contain the virus.

Vinnie Virginslayer, feel free to read my paranoid speculations in this thread.

Anthrax is scary, but I don’t think an individual mail-out program would be a very efficient way to spread it. Since it’s not contagious through person-to-person contact, you would really need to do something like the crop-dusting scenario or contaminating a food source in order to infect a lot of people. As you pointed out, however, even one or two cases that were deliberately exposed can cause a panic - how do you know who’ll be next?

Remember the Tylenol poisonings?

Yikes. Actual details wanted in GD. I’m out of my depth here. :wink:

Firstly, ingesting anthrax spores wouldn’t do it. There are three forms in anthrax - on the skin, in the GI tract, and in the lungs. The pulmonary form, which is caught by breathing in spores, is by far the most deadly. The mortality rate for the other forms, including the one caught by eating spores, is far less.

I’m afraid I can’t give you hard numbers on how many spores you’d have to inhale to get sick, partially because I just don’t remember, and partially because it’s not a concrete thing. Our immune systems are really pretty efficient, so in general with bacterial infections, you have to have more bacteria than you’d probably think offhand to get sick. But as I said, I don’t really have any details offhand. I’ll try and find my old medical micro textbook when I get home.

My husband’s first cousin, Tia, works in that building, for the Enquirer. She was an accountant (I think - or something to do with money, I’m ashamed of myself) until recently and I had no idea she had changed jobs until her mom started calling the family yesterday. She’s being tested, but that’s all we know for now. Needless to say, we’re all pretty shaken up, however small the likelihood that she’ll get sick. This whole thing gets scarier all the time.

*Originally posted by Vinnie Virginslayer *
**This article should help put your mind at ease:

The gist of it is, yeah there’s terrorists that are working on all of these things, but it’s really hard to pull off.

…uuhhh, I hate to burst your bubble, Vinnie, but that article is loaded with information about how much anthrax was sold to Iraq, how it is available anywhere in nature(including Afghanistan), and how the authorities have lost track of some bio-weapons experts formerly employed by the Soviet Union who may be familiar with overcoming the one big hurdle of “weaponizing” anthrax.

I liked life better in the bubble.