Anthrax can be transmitted in four ways: through the skin, the lungs (the most dangerous), the digestive system (through digestion), and by injection. In northern Europe, heroin injectors are prone to injection anthrax. This has not been reported in the United States.
Anthrax is contracted through the handling of products from animals infected with anthrax, by inhaling anthrax spores or eating meat that has not been properly cooked from animals infected with it.
Over the centuries, it has been blamed as the cause of several plagues that have killed humans and livestock. In World War I, it was used as a weapon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies anthrax as Category A: a threat that can have a significant impact on the public health. It is also one that could spread over a wide area, or that requires public awareness and planning to protect public health.
Anthrax attacks, which occurred in the fall 2001, caused five deaths and 17 illnesses.
Anthrax was delivered anonymously to Florida and New York news agencies and a congressional building in Washington DC.
Two of the five victims that died from inhalation anthrax were postal workers. Other victims included an elderly woman in rural Connecticut, Manhattan hospital workers from the Bronx, and a Florida tabloid employee who could have acquired anthrax from cross-contamination.
These letters were sent out to Sen. Patrick Leahy, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and the New York Post offices. The letters were sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy and Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Postmarks on the letters are Trenton, New Jersey.
The attacks did not result in any arrests.
The Postal Service purchased 4.8 million masks, 88 millions gloves for its employees and tested 300 postal facilities for anthrax.
After exposure to anthrax, over 32,000 people received antibiotics.
Stevens, Bob, a photo editor for American Media Inc., died from anthrax inhalation on October 5, 2001
Morris, Thomas Jr., a DC postal worker died from inhalation of anthrax on October 21, 2001
Curseen Jr., Joseph - DC Area Postal Worker, Died of Inhalation Anthrax on October 22, 2001
Nguyen Kathy - Manhattan Hospital employee, died from inhalation of anthrax on October 31, 2001
Lundgren Ottilie, Connecticut woman died from inhalation of anthrax on November 22, 2001
Stevens, a Sun photo editor who died of anthrax inhalation on October 5, 2001.
The date of October 12, 2001 is a Sunday.
An employee of Senate Majority leader Daschle opened a letter with a postmark from Trenton, New Jersey. The letter contained a white powdery substance that was later determined to be anthrax spores of 'weapons-grade'. After the envelope was discovered, more than 20 people in Daschle’s office tested positive for anthrax.
A letter with anthrax that was not opened is discovered in the New York Post's offices on October 19, 2001. One Post employee has a confirmed cutaneous infection, and another shows symptoms.
October 21, 2001: Morris Jr., a DC postal worker, dies from anthrax inhalation.
October 22, 2001: DC postal worker Curseen died of anthrax inhalation.
Nguyen, a worker in the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital's stockroom, died of anthrax by inhalation on October 31, 2001.
November 9, 2001: The FBI releases the behavioral profile of a suspect who appears to be a loner male and may work in a lab.
Anthrax is discovered in a letter sent to Senator Leahy on November 16, 2001. This letter was quarantined at the Capitol. The letter is at least 23,000 anthrax-spores, and was postmarked in Trenton on October 9th.
Lundgren, an 94-year old woman from Connecticut, died of inhalation athrax on November 22, 2001.
In January 2002, FBI agents interviewed former US Army bioweapons scientists Steven Hatfill in the context of the anthrax investigations.
FBI names Hatfill, a bioweapons scientist, as a "person of interest" in June 2002.
With Hatfill's consent, the FBI searched Hatfill’s Maryland apartment and Florida locker on June 25, 2002.
June 27, 2002: The FBI announces that it will be focusing its investigation on 30 experts in biological weapons.
August 1, 2002: The FBI searches Hatfill's Maryland home and Florida storage unit a second time using a criminal search order. Anthrax swab test results are negative.
John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States, refers to Hatfill on August 6, 2002 as a "person of interest."
Hatfill gives a presser on August 11, 2002, declaring his innocence. He held a second press conference on August 25,2002.
September 11, 2002: The FBI searches Hatfill’s former apartment in Maryland a third time.
Hatfill files civil suit against the Justice Department, Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI on August 26, 2003. He claims his constitutional rights were violated. Hatfill claims that his Fifth Amendment Rights were violated by the Justice Department and FBI for preventing him to earn a living. He also alleges that Hatfill was retaliated against after he asked to be cleared of any involvement in the anthrax investigation. The lawsuit also seeks undetermined monetary damages.
On July 11, 2004, the former headquarters of American Media, Inc., in Boca Raton, Florida, which Stevens contracted anthrax, is decontaminated with chlorine dioxide gas. This was the building that had been exposed to the anthrax last in fall 2001.
Justice Department settles with Hatfill on June 27, 2008. The Justice Department must pay Hatfill $2.825m in a single payment and purchase a $3m annuity which will pay Hatfill $150k a year over 20 years. Hatfill agrees to drop his lawsuit in exchange for the government apologizing and admitting no wrongdoing.
Bruce Ivins died on July 29, 2008, after he overdosed during a suicide try.
August 6, 2008: Judge releases and unseals hundreds of documents from the FBI Anthrax Investigation 2001 that details Ivins’ role in the attacks.
Hatfill is officially exonerated by the Justice Department on August 8, 2008.
September 25, 2008
February 19, 2010: The Justice Department and FBI announce that their investigation into 2001's anthrax mailings has come to an end.
Research Strategies Network (a Virginia-based non-profit think-tank) releases a report titled The Amerithrax Case on March 23, 2011. The report states that Ivins's mental health records indicate he should not have been allowed to work at the US Army Research Facility in Maryland. The US Department of Justice requested the report.
The New York Times reported on October 9, 2011, that scientists are questioning FBI claims regarding Ivins. Ivins may have worked with another person if he had been involved. Scientists also say that the presence of Tin in the dried anthrax warrants a reopening of the investigation.
On November 23, 2011, the Justice Department settled with Stevens family for $2.5 Million. The family initially sued in 2003 for $50 million, arguing the military lab should have been more secure.