Spreading anthrax with crop-dusters

It was reported today that some suspects were apprehended with a crop dusting manual in their possession.

If in fact they were to spread anthrax over a large city like New York, what measures would have to be taken to keep people from spreading it, provided that it takes 24-48 hours for the effects to show? I presume that they would once again ground all flights and possibly block all major access in or out of the city.

If upon hearing news of the anthrax outbreak I were to retreat into the remote parts of my state, could I effectively escape the outbreak? How long would I have to remain in hiding? How long can the anthrax virus survive in a dead corpse?

Is this the kind of situation that the militias have been training for?

just a few random thoughts…

aerial spraying of any pathogen would be problematic. A single anthrax bacterium wouldn’t be enough to infect a person. (I don’t know that the LD50 dose is) to get a concentration high enough to be fatal to a majority of the population would require the plane to fly low and slow

If I recall correctly, the appeal of anthrax as a biological weapon is that it kills quickly and doesn’t stick around for too long (less than a day). That way, after everyone’s dead, the invading foces can move in safely. Of course, anthrax is not the only potential biological agent, and there’s others far more nasty.

Then, too, crop dusting manuals don’t prove anything. We know that the terrorists had somewhat trained pilots. Maybe they were just using small cropduster airplanes to practice.

I was under the impression that anthrax is extremely persisent and that there are still places in the UK (islands, IIRC) which are quarantined all these many years after the world wars due to contamination with anthrax.

Just found this info at defenselink http://www.defenselink.mil/other_info/agent.html

Don’ worry about antrhax/other bilogicals from a plane. It’s an inefficient method at this time. Cropdusters have just been approved to fly in the last three day and any low-flying plane in a metropolitan area will be serverely scrutinized, if not shut down.

If one wanted to destribute a biogical toxin in a large metropolitan area, you would be better off to spray the produce section in a number of supermarkets or release it in an enclosed area. (e.g., the Japanese subway attack, with what I recall was a ricin based toxin.)

[slight hijack]
So what do you think the possibility is for a massive Anthrax immunization program now?
[/slight hijack]

I think that was tried on the troops during the Gulf War with pretty disastrous results. I believe the mass immunisation programme was an important factor in Gulf War Syndrome.

The Anthrax Vaccination Thread was on Metafilter.com in the last few days.

According to the CDC, all personnel in the armed services are to be vaccinated against anthrax http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/anthrax_g.htm

Is a crop duster effective for spreading chemical weapons? The Tokyo subway attack was in an enclosed space (it was sarin gas, btw) but before that attack, the same cult released sarin in the open and killed several people living in nearby apartments. (Mostly people sleeping with their windows open, IIRC)

Where was that reported?

And it might be pretty handy if you wanted to spread a few kilos of Plutonium dust.

Perhaps we will all be like the guy who meets Cary Grant at the crossroads in North by Northwest

“Funny, that plane’s cropdusting where there ain’t no crops.”

I believe the Japanese subway attack used sarin, which is a nerve gas. However, the attackers left a fairly diluted solution, which kept the death toll from growing too high (I believe 11 people died although thousands were injured.) The same group also tried to infect Japanese cities with numerous biological agents, but none of them worked.

Regular old bombs are still just as effective.

North By Northwest was a great movie.
The advantage of Anthrax over bombs is the fear factor: you can see bombs, you can tell you’ve been bombed. But to strike terror into the populace, the use of biological weapons seems like upping the ante. You could be inhaling the stuff right now and not even know it.

[nitpick] Sarin, not Ricin. [/nitpick] :wink:

The Washington Post’s article about this topic is disturbing. It also adds, “The FBI last week arrested a former Boston cabdriver, Nabil Almarabh, who had financial ties to some hijackers and had recently secured a Michigan license to haul hazardous materials such as dynamite, gases and toxic and radioactive waste. Two other men arrested in Almarabh’s former Detroit home had licenses to drive commercial trucks, officials said.”


Specifically, the island of Gruinard, which was used for anthrax testing during WWII, and is still off limits today.

Yes, if you want some detailed info on the sarin incidents, probably the best book is “The Cult at the End of the World” and also Haruki Murakami’s astonishing book “Underground” has just been translated into English.
I remember seeing the first sarin incidents on Japanese TV by satellite, I knew something weird was happening when I saw the Japanese authorities trying to figure out what was happening. At one point, they nearly crucified a poor farmer and claimed he accidentally produced sarin from fertilizer. These out-in-the-open attacks were not very successful, Aum didn’t have effective means of delivering the sarin without killing themselves. Airborne attacks usually drifted off, I read of one attack that should have been deadly but drifted off-target, mostly harmlessly. In one of the worst cases, Aum attacked the judges who were presiding over an early Aum-related disppearance, that was the attack on the apartment building. The judges were sickened enough to withdraw from the case for reasons of health. In another case, they tried to deliver targeted gas bombs with glass bottles attached to arrows, but the bottles broke at launch and the attackers poisoned themselves. And if that wasn’t screwy enough, they imported 3 large model helicopters from the US that were used in crop spraying, but Aum crashed all three of them while practicing. Aum actually imported a large crop dusting helicopter from Russia, but it had to be snuck into the country disassembled and they never did get it back into flying condition.
So yeah, Aum’s plan really did depend on the confined spaces of the subways. They had plenty of big ideas but they were just incompetent, for which we can be thankful. Their final delivery mechanism was astonishingly simple, it was a binary chemical, mix two liquids and sarin was released. They just made two sealed plastic bags with the components, and put them in an ordinary paper bag. They set the bag on the ground, then pierced it with the sharpened tip of an umbrella. And then ran like hell.

Consider this:

Chemical Warfare Agents (partial list)
Nerve Agents, Mustard Agents, Hydrogen Cyanide, Tear Gases, Arsines, Psychotomimetic Agents, Toxins, Potential CW Agents

“Nerve agents have an extremely rapid effect. If medical methods of treatment are to serve any purpose, they must be introduced immediately. In many countries, the armed forces have access to an auto-injector containing antidotes to nerve agents. It is so simple to use that the soldier can easily give himself or another person an intramuscular injection.”

Chemical Warfare Agents (partial list)
Anthrax, Botulinum Toxins, Brucellosis, Cholera, Clostridium Perfringens Toxins, Congo-Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, Melioidosis, Plague, Q Fever, Ricin, Rift Valley Fever, Saxitoxin, Smallpox, Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B, Trichothecene Mycotoxins, Tularemia, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis.

“Inhalation anthrax develops when the bacterial organism is inhaled into the lungs. A progressive infection follows. Since inhalation anthrax is usually not diagnosed in time for treatment, the mortality rate in the United States is 90-100%. A biological warfare attack with anthrax spores delivered by aerosol would cause inhalation anthrax, an extraordinarily rare form of the naturally occurring disease. A lethal dose of anthrax is considered to be 10,000 spores; 80 percent of a population that inhaled such a dose would die. Less than one millionth of a gram is invariably fatal within five days to a week after exposure. According to an estimate by the US Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment, 100 kilograms of anthrax, released from a low-flying aircraft over a large city on a clear, calm night, could kill one to three million people…Almost all cases of inhalation anthrax in which treatment was begun after patients were symptomatic have been fatal, regardless of treatment.”