The Spread of Anthrax

Hardly a day goes by without anthrax turning up in some new location. The stuff is all over the place. So the question is how is it getting there? I wonder how much is known about the ways that it spreads, and travels, and could it be spreading in ways that we don’t know?

I though the best theory at present was that it was simply spreading through the mail. The spores are less than 10 microns in size and the pores in ordinary envelopes are more than ten times that big. So apparently the envelope doesn’t even have to be opened in any serious way for the buggers to leak out.

I got an email yesterday informing that, since we receive the bulk of our mail from the infamous Brentwood processing facility, that our building will be inspected for contamination.

Terrific :frowning:

I saw something on CNN a few days ago where somebody did a test with some kind of harmless powder that glows under black light. After putting it into an envelope & then mixing it up with some other envelopes, then dumping those evnelopes into various test containers that had still more faux-mail in it, all of the incidental mail was checked under a black light and quite a few pieces showed “contamination”.

Attrayant Well I have to agree with you. You hit the nail on the head. The Anthrax that is being spread is very small, less than 10 microns, and it ‘the tainted letter’ has to be aggitated for the anthrax to get out of the host vehicle. The very act of passing the letter through the postal system, on the sorting machines, has apparently aggitated the substance enough to make it spread beyond the vehicle of the envelope.

This may seem quite sophisticated, but to me it appears more rudamentary than anything else. If someone had a mass dose of anthrax, I believe they would have used it. This appears to be a poor follow-up to the terror of 9/11. I think that is why those peoples on the Hill that support the idea this may be a domesticated terror attck and not one brought out of the mid-east. Hopfully God speed to those sending the letters, hopefully they will all be waiting outside the gates of hell getting the bone from Hitler for the rest of eternity. :slight_smile:

probably does not answer the question, but I think the OP has been answered.

Anthrax Reports Spread to Midwest

What I’m wondering is, if anthrax is so rare, is it possible that it can be spread in other ways than are presently thought? How much is actually known for certain about how it spreads?

As has been suggested (by myself and others) in another thread, it is not at all clear that anthrax is rare (it is clear is that infection and deaths from anthrax are rare).

But I’ve not yet seen anything that suggests that it must be the case that anthrax has spread to the mailroom in KC or elsewhere, as opposed to always having been there and we’re just now looking for it.

It would be very, very bad news if a terrorist could inject some anthrax into toner bottles for production printing machines. These machine only fuse at 150 degress and 75% of the paychecks in the US are printed on them.
I know this from my line of work…how many other horrible things can be imagined? Scary…

won’t printers crushed the spores physically?

One of the most important things to accomplish when trying to turn anthrax spores into a weapon with any kind of delivery potential- the spores are naturally sticky and tend to clump together. Part of the sophistication in making the spores so dangerous is in coating them with some kind of fine powder so that they don’t clump and then can become more easily airborn. Toner powder seems (to me) to be very sticky, judging from the way it stains my hands when I add it to the copy machine. I also don’t see it making powdery clouds when I happen to spill some.

Even if a cartridge was heavily contaminated (say, 10% anthrax by volume), I suspect it would all become gummed-up by the sticky toner. Any spores that make it to print will get fused/bonded to the paper, if it doesn’t get cooked by the heat.

Besides, I have direct deposit :smiley:

It doesn’t crush paper, which is anywhere from 10-50 times thicker than an anthrax spore is. I doubt the spores have anything to fear from brute force.

The way it’s been delivered is pretty inefficient-- It could have been (or could get) so much worse. Spend a little time playing “if I had two grams of anthrax and I wanted to make as many people ill as possible, what would I do?”. I’ve thought of several methods that would affect huge numbers of people, and I can think of a variety of attacks that would be certain to result in hundreds of inhalation cases, and are discrete and untraceable. It gives me the screaming meemies. Why stuff it in an envelope with a “Boo! This is Anthrax!” message? Can you imagine how much more effective it would have been if a larger number of benign-looking letters were lightly dusted and sent out? No HAZMAT team when the letter’s opened, just filed with the rest of the mail.

Actually, large production printing machines have bottles of very, very fine (looks like liquid) powdered toner. Even after the fusing process, there is a small film of “loose” toner adhered to the paper very static electricity. You can see it if you use a strong magnifying glass or eye-loop.

Toner is nothing but colored plastic. When smashed and fused it adheres on/and into the paper but I was wondering if all the leftover residue could be problematic.

My summary is that my expertise is in production printing. A niche area…and I was thinking that there are tons of people in jobs that see situations where evil people could wreak incredible havoc…

They’ve found spores on the sorting machines, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that any mail going through those sorters could at least be mildly tainted.

I wonder how many cases of undiagnosed skin-anthrax are out there waiting to be discovered?