In October 2001, the first inhalational anthrax case in the United States since 1976 was identified in a media company worker in Florida. A national investigation was initiated to identify additional cases and determine possible exposures to Bacillus anthracis. Surveillance was enhanced through health-care facilities, laboratories, and other means to identify cases, which were defined as clinically compatible illness with laboratory-confirmed B. anthracis infection. From October 4 to November 20, 2001, 22 cases of anthrax (11 inhalational, 11 cutaneous) were identified; 5 of the inhalational cases were fatal. Twenty (91%) case-patients were either mail handlers or were exposed to worksites where contaminated mail was processed or received. B. anthracis isolates from four powder-containing envelopes, 17 specimens from patients, and 106 environmental samples were indistinguishable by molecular subtyping. Illness and death occurred not only at targeted worksites, but also along the path of mail and in other settings. Continued vigilance for cases is needed among health-care providers and members of the public health and law enforcement communities.
On October 31, 2001, in New York City, a 61-year-old female hospital employee who had acquired inhalational anthrax died after a 6-day illness. To determine sources of exposure and identify additional persons at risk, the New York City Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and law enforcement authorities conducted an extensive investigation, which included interviewing contacts, examining personal effects, summarizing patient’s use of mass transit, conducting active case finding and surveillance near her residence and at her workplace, and collecting samples from co-workers and the environment. We cultured all specimens for Bacillus anthracis. We found no additional cases of cutaneous or inhalational anthrax. The route of exposure remains unknown. All environmental samples were negative for B. anthracis. This first case of inhalational anthrax during the 2001 outbreak with no apparent direct link to contaminated mail emphasizes the need for close coordination between public health and law enforcement agencies during bioterrorism-related investigations.
B. anthracis; inhalational anthrax; bioterrorism; research
In October 2001, four cases of inhalational anthrax occurred in workers in a Washington, D.C., mail facility that processed envelopes containing Bacillus anthracis spores. We reviewed the envelopes’ paths and obtained exposure histories and nasal swab cultures from postal workers. Environmental sampling was performed. A sample of employees was assessed for antibody concentrations to B. anthracis protective antigen. Case-patients worked on nonoverlapping shifts throughout the facility. Environmental sampling showed diffuse contamination of the facility, suggesting multiple aerosolization events. Potential workplace exposures were similar for the case-patients and the sample of workers. All nasal swab cultures and serum antibody tests were negative. Available tools could not identify subgroups of employees at higher risk for exposure or disease. Prophylaxis was necessary for all employees. To protect postal workers against bioterrorism, measures to reduce the risk of occupational exposure are necessary.
bioterrorism; Bacillus anthracis; postal facility; inhalational anthrax
From October 4 to November 2, 2001, the first 10 confirmed cases of inhalational anthrax caused by intentional release of Bacillus anthracis were identified in the United States. Epidemiologic investigation indicated that the outbreak, in the District of Columbia, Florida, New Jersey, and New York, resulted from intentional delivery of B. anthracis spores through mailed letters or packages. We describe the clinical presentation and course of these cases of bioterrorism-related inhalational anthrax. The median age of patients was 56 years (range 43 to 73 years), 70% were male, and except for one, all were known or believed to have processed, handled, or received letters containing B. anthracis spores. The median incubation period from the time of exposure to onset of symptoms, when known (n=6), was 4 days (range 4 to 6 days). Symptoms at initial presentation included fever or chills (n=10), sweats (n=7), fatigue or malaise (n=10), minimal or nonproductive cough (n=9), dyspnea (n=8), and nausea or vomiting (n=9). The median white blood cell count was 9.8 X 10(3)/mm(3) (range 7.5 to 13.3), often with increased neutrophils and band forms. Nine patients had elevated serum transaminase levels, and six were hypoxic. All 10 patients had abnormal chest X-rays; abnormalities included infiltrates (n=7), pleural effusion (n=8), and mediastinal widening (seven patients). Computed tomography of the chest was performed on eight patients, and mediastinal lymphadenopathy was present in seven. With multidrug antibiotic regimens and supportive care, survival of patients (60%) was markedly higher (<15%) than previously reported.
Bacillus anthracis infection is rare in developed countries. However, recent outbreaks in the United States and Europe and the potential use of the bacteria for bioterrorism have focused interest on it. Furthermore, although anthrax was known to typically occur as one of three syndromes related to entry site of (i.e., cutaneous, gastrointestinal, or inhalational), a fourth syndrome including severe soft tissue infection in injectional drug users is emerging. Although shock has been described with cutaneous anthrax, it appears much more common with gastrointestinal, inhalational (5 of 11 patients in the 2001 outbreak in the United States), and injectional anthrax. Based in part on case series, the estimated mortalities of cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalational, and injectional anthrax are 1%, 25 to 60%, 46%, and 33%, respectively. Nonspecific early symptomatology makes initial identification of anthrax cases difficult. Clues to anthrax infection include history of exposure to herbivore animal products, heroin use, or clustering of patients with similar respiratory symptoms concerning for a bioterrorist event. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with Gram stain and culture from blood or surgical specimens followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR or immunohistochemistry). Although antibiotic therapy (largely quinolone-based) is the mainstay of anthrax treatment, the use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists is a consideration.
Bacillus anthracis; diagnosis; pathogenesis; treatment
The lack of identified exposures in 2 of the 11 cases of bioterrorism-related inhalation anthrax in 2001 raised uncertainty about the infectious dose and transmission of Bacillus anthracis. We used the Wells-Riley mathematical model of airborne infection to estimate 1) the exposure concentrations in postal facilities where cases of inhalation anthrax occurred and 2) the risk for infection in various hypothetical scenarios of exposure to B. anthracis aerosolized from contaminated mail in residential settings. These models suggest that a small number of cases of inhalation anthrax can be expected when large numbers of persons are exposed to low concentrations of B. anthracis. The risk for inhalation anthrax is determined not only by bacillary virulence factors but also by infectious aerosol production and removal rates and by host factors.
Anthrax; Air microbiology; Infection; Risk; Inhalation exposure; Lethal Dose 50; Ventilation
On November 20, 2001, inhalational anthrax was confirmed in an elderly woman from rural Connecticut. To determine her exposure source, we conducted an extensive epidemiologic, environmental, and laboratory investigation. Molecular subtyping showed that her isolate was indistinguishable from isolates associated with intentionally contaminated letters. No samples from her home or community yielded Bacillus anthracis, and she received no first-class letters from facilities known to have processed intentionally contaminated letters. Environmental sampling in the regional Connecticut postal facility yielded B. anthracis spores from 4 (31%) of 13 sorting machines. One extensively contaminated machine primarily processes bulk mail. A second machine that does final sorting of bulk mail for her zip code yielded B. anthracis on the column of bins for her carrier route. The evidence suggests she was exposed through a cross-contaminated bulk mail letter. Such cross-contamination of letters and postal facilities has implications for managing the response to future B. anthracis–contaminated mailings.
Bacillus anthracis; inhalational anthrax; bioterrorism; postal facilities; research
After public notification of confirmed cases of bioterrorism-related anthrax, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Operations Center responded to 11,063 bioterrorism-related telephone calls from October 8 to November 11, 2001. Most calls were inquiries from the public about anthrax vaccines (58.4%), requests for general information on bioterrorism prevention (14.8%), and use of personal protective equipment (12.0%); 882 telephone calls (8.0%) were referred to the state liaison team for follow-up investigation. Of these, 226 (25.6%) included reports of either illness clinically confirmed to be compatible with anthrax or direct exposure to an environment known to be contaminated with Bacillus anthracis. The remaining 656 (74.4%) included no confirmed illness but reported exposures to “suspicious” packages or substances or the receipt of mail through a contaminated facility. Emergency response staff must handle high call volumes following suspected or actual bioterrorist attacks. Standardized health communication protocols that address contact with unknown substances, handling of suspicious mail, and clinical evaluation of suspected cases would allow more efficient follow-up investigations of clinically compatible cases in high-risk groups.
anthrax; bioterrorism; triage; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
On November 19, 2001, a case of inhalational anthrax was identified in a 94-year-old Connecticut woman, who later died. We conducted intensive surveillance for additional anthrax cases, which included collecting data from hospitals, emergency departments, private practitioners, death certificates, postal facilities, veterinarians, and the state medical examiner. No additional cases of anthrax were identified. The absence of additional anthrax cases argued against an intentional environmental release of Bacillus anthracis in Connecticut and suggested that, if the source of anthrax had been cross-contaminated mail, the risk for anthrax in this setting was very low. This surveillance system provides a model that can be adapted for use in similar emergency settings.
On November 11, 2001, following the bioterrorism-related anthrax attacks, the U.S. Postal Service collected samples at the Southern Connecticut Processing and Distribution Center; all samples were negative for Bacillus anthracis. After a patient in Connecticut died from inhalational anthrax on November 19, the center was sampled again on November 21 and 25 by using dry and wet swabs. All samples were again negative for B. anthracis. On November 28, guided by information from epidemiologic investigation, we sampled the site extensively with wet wipes and surface vacuum sock samples (using HEPA vacuum). Of 212 samples, 6 (3%) were positive, including one from a highly contaminated sorter. Subsequently B. anthracis was also detected in mail-sorting bins used for the patient’s carrier route. These results suggest cross-contaminated mail as a possible source of anthrax for the inhalational anthrax patient in Connecticut. In future such investigations, extensive sampling guided by epidemiologic data is imperative.
Bacillus anthracis; anthrax; environmental sampling; postal facility; surface sampling; HEPA vacuum sock; swabs; wipes
At least four Bacillus anthracis–containing envelopes destined for New York City and Washington, D.C., were processed at the Trenton Processing and Distribution Center (PDC) on September 18 and October 9, 2001. When cutaneous anthrax was confirmed in a Trenton postal worker, the PDC was closed. Four cutaneous and two inhalational anthrax cases were identified. Five patients were hospitalized; none died. Four were PDC employees; the others handled or received mail processed there. Onset dates occurred in two clusters following envelope processing at the PDC. The attack rate among the 170 employees present when the B. anthracis–containing letters were sorted on October 9 was 1.2%. Of 137 PDC environmental samples, 57 (42%) were positive. Five (10%) of 50 local post offices each yielded one positive sample. Cutaneous or inhalational anthrax developed in four postal employees at a facility where B. anthracis–containing letters were processed. Cross-contaminated mail or equipment was the likely source of infection in two other case-patients with cutaneous anthrax.
Bacillus anthracis; anthrax; bioterrorism
From September through December 2001, 22 Americans were diagnosed with anthrax, prompting widespread national media attention and public concern over bioterrorism. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the threat of anthrax bioterrorism on patient presentation to a West Coast emergency department (ED).
This survey was conducted at an urban county ED in Oakland, CA between December 15, 2001 and February 15, 2002. During random 8-hour blocks, all adult patients presenting for flu or upper respiratory infection (URI) symptoms were surveyed using a structured survey instrument that included standard visual numerical and Likert scales.
Eighty-nine patients were interviewed. Eleven patients (12%) reported potential exposure risk factors. Eighty percent of patients watched television, read the newspaper, or listened to the radio daily, and 83% of patients had heard about anthrax bioterrorism. Fifty-five percent received a chest x-ray, 10% received either throat or blood cultures, and 28% received antibiotics. Twenty-one percent of patients surveyed were admitted to the hospital. Most patients were minimally concerned that they may have contracted anthrax (mean=3.3±3.3 where 0=no concern and 10=extremely concerned). Patient concern about anthrax had little influence on their decision to visit the ED (mean=2.8±3.0 where 0=no influence and 10=greatly influenced). Had they experienced their same flu or URI symptoms one year prior to the anthrax outbreak, 91% of patients stated they would have sought medical attention.
After considerable exposure to media reports about anthrax, most patients in this urban West Coast ED population were not concerned about anthrax infection. Fear of anthrax had little effect on decisions to come to the ED, and most would have sought medical help prior to the anthrax outbreak.
The index case of inhalational anthrax in October 2001 was in a man who lived and worked in Florida. However, during the 3 days before illness onset, the patient had traveled through North Carolina, raising the possibility that exposure to Bacillus anthracis spores could have occurred there. The rapid response in North Carolina included surveillance among hospital intensive-care units, microbiology laboratories, medical examiners, and veterinarians, and site investigations at locations visited by the index patient to identify the naturally occurring or bioterrorism-related source of his exposure.
Bacillus anthracis; anthrax; bioterrorism; epidemiology and surveillance
In October 2001, two inhalational anthrax and four cutaneous anthrax cases, resulting from the processing of Bacillus anthracis–containing envelopes at a New Jersey mail facility, were identified. Subsequently, we initiated stimulated passive hospital-based and enhanced passive surveillance for anthrax-compatible syndromes. From October 24 to December 17, 2001, hospitals reported 240,160 visits and 7,109 intensive-care unit admissions in the surveillance area (population 6.7 million persons). Following a change to reporting criteria on November 8, the average of possible inhalational anthrax reports decreased 83% from 18 to 3 per day; the proportion of reports requiring follow-up increased from 37% (105/286) to 41% (47/116). Clinical follow-up was conducted on 214 of 464 possible inhalational anthrax patients and 98 possible cutaneous anthrax patients; 49 had additional laboratory testing. No additional cases were identified. To verify the limited scope of the outbreak, surveillance was essential, though labor-intensive. The flexibility of the system allowed interim evaluation, thus improving surveillance efficiency.
Bacillus anthracis; anthrax; surveillance; bioterrorism
OBJECTIVE: To examine the characteristics of foreign-born people with tuberculosis (TB) in Southern Florida, their contribution to the total number of TB cases, and available data on their HIV status as well as to determine the number of cases detected by the overseas medical screening of immigrants and refugees. METHODS: The authors reviewed TB cases reported by Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach counties in 1995. Case records were matched against the CDC Division of Quarantine database of immigrants and refugees suspected to have TB at the time of visa application overseas. RESULTS: Nearly half (49%) of TB cases in the three counties were among people born outside the United States--34% in Broward County, 58% in Dade County, and 40% in Palm Beach County. A high percentage (26%) were co-infected with HIV. Of those with known date of arrival, 68% had been in the United States for five or more years. Only three cases had been identified by overseas immigrant screening. CONCLUSIONS: A low percentage of TB cases in foreign-born people were identified through the overseas screening system. Controlling TB in South Florida will require efforts targeted toward high risk populations, including people with HIV infection.
Workers’ compensation insurance in some states may not provide coverage for medical evaluation costs of workplace exposures related to potential bioterrorism acts if there is no diagnosed illness or disease. Personal insurance also may not provide coverage for these exposures occurring at the workplace. Governmental entities, insurers, and employers need to consider how to address such situations and the associated costs. The objective of this study was to examine characteristics of workers and total costs associated with workers’ compensation claims alleging potential exposure to the bioterrorism organism B. anthracis.
We examined 192 claims referred for review to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OBWC) from October 10, 2001, through December 20, 2004.
Although some cases came from out-of-state areas where B. anthracis exposure was known to exist, no Ohio claim was associated with true B. anthracis exposure or B. anthracis-related illness. Of the 155 eligible claims, 126 included medical costs averaging $219 and ranging from $24 to $3,126. There was no difference in mean cost for government and non-government employees (p=0.202 Wilcoxon).
The number of claims and associated medical costs for evaluation and treatment of potential workplace exposure to B. anthracis were relatively small. These results can be attributed to several factors, including no documented B. anthracis exposures and disease in Ohio and prompt transmission of recommended diagnostic and prophylactic treatment protocols to physicians. How employers, insurers, and jurisdictions address payment for evaluation and treatment of potential or documented exposures resulting from a potential terrorism-related event should be addressed proactively.
In October 2001, a letter containing a large number of anthrax spores was sent through the Brentwood post office in Washington, D.C., to a United States Senate office on Capitol Hill, resulting in contamination in both places. Several thousand people who worked at these sites were screened for spore exposure by collecting nasal swab samples. We describe here a screening protocol which we, as a level A laboratory, used on very short notice to process a large number of specimens (3,936 swabs) in order to report preliminary results as quickly as possible. Six isolates from our screening met preliminary criteria for Bacillus anthracis identification and were referred for definitive testing. Although none of the isolates was later confirmed to be B. anthracis, we studied these isolates further to define their biochemical characteristics and 16S rRNA sequences. Four of the six isolates were identified as Bacillus megaterium, one was identified as Bacillus cereus, and one was an unidentifiable Bacillus sp. Our results suggest that large-scale nasal-swab screening for potential exposure to anthrax spores, particularly if not done immediately postexposure, may not be very effective for detecting B. anthracis but may detect a number of Bacillus spp. that are phenotypically very similar to B. anthracis.
Expanded options for treatments directed against pathogens that can be used for bioterrorism are urgently needed. Treatment regimens directed against such pathogens can be identified only by using data derived from in vitro and animal studies. It is crucial that these studies reliably predict the efficacy of proposed treatments in humans. The objective of this study was to identify a levofloxacin treatment regimen that will serve as an effective therapy for Bacillus anthracis infections and postexposure prophylaxis. An in vitro hollow-fiber infection model that replicates the pharmacokinetic profile of levofloxacin observed in humans (half-life [t1/2], 7.5 h) or in animals, such as the mouse or the rhesus monkey (t1/2, ∼2 h), was used to evaluate a proposed indication for levofloxacin (500 mg once daily) for the treatment of Bacillus anthracis infections. The results obtained with the in vitro model served as the basis for the doses and the dose schedules that were evaluated in the mouse inhalational anthrax model. The effects of levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin treatment were compared to those of no treatment (untreated controls). The main outcome measure in the in vitro hollow-fiber infection model was a persistent reduction of culture density (≥4 log10 reduction) and prevention of the emergence of levofloxacin-resistant organisms. In the mouse inhalational anthrax model the main outcome measure was survival. The results indicated that levofloxacin given once daily with simulated human pharmacokinetics effectively sterilized Bacillus anthracis cultures. By using a simulated animal pharmacokinetic profile, a once-daily dosing regimen that provided a human-equivalent exposure failed to sterilize the cultures. Dosing regimens that “partially humanized” levofloxacin exposures within the constraints of animal pharmacokinetics reproduced the antimicrobial efficacy seen with human pharmacokinetics. In a mouse inhalational anthrax model, once-daily dosing was significantly inferior (survival end point) to regimens of dosing every 12 h or every 6 h with identical total daily levofloxacin doses. These results demonstrate the predictive value of the in vitro hollow-fiber infection model with respect to the success or the failure of treatment regimens in animals. Furthermore, the model permits the evaluation of treatment regimens that “humanize” antibiotic exposures in animal models, enhancing the confidence with which animal models may be used to reliably predict the efficacies of proposed antibiotic treatments in humans in situations (e.g., the release of pathogens as agents of bioterrorism or emerging infectious diseases) where human trials cannot be performed. A treatment regimen effective in rhesus monkeys was identified.
With over 50% of the US population living in coastal counties, the ocean and coastal environments have substantial impacts on coastal communities. While may of the impacts are positive, such as tourism and recreation opportunities, there are also negative impacts, such as exposure to harmful algal blooms (HABs) and water borne pathogens. Recent advances in environmental monitoring and weather prediction may allow us to forecast these potential adverse effects and thus mitigate the negative impact from coastal environmental threats.
One example of the need to mitigate adverse environmental impacts occurs on Florida’s west coast, which experiences annual blooms, or periods of exuberant growth, of the toxic dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis. K. brevis produces a suite of potent neurotoxins called brevetoxins. Wind and wave action can break up the cells, releasing toxin that can then become part of the marine aerosol or sea spray. Brevetoxins in the aerosol cause respiratory irritation in people who inhale it. In addition, asthmatics who inhale the toxins report increase upper and lower airway lower symptoms and experience measurable changes in pulmonary function. Real-time reporting of the presence or absence of these toxic aerosols will allow asthmatics and local coastal residents to make informed decisions about their personal exposures, thus adding to their quality of life.
A system to protect public health that combines information collected by an Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) has been designed and implemented in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, Florida. This system is based on real-time reports from lifeguards at the eight public beaches. The lifeguards provide periodic subjective reports of the amount of dead fish on the beach, apparent level of respiratory irritation among beach-goers, water color, wind direction, surf condition, and the beach warning flag they are flying.
A key component in the design of the observing system was an easy reporting pathway for the lifeguards to minimize the amount of time away from their primary duties. Specifically, we provided a Personal Digital Assistant for each of the eight beaches. The portable unit allows the lifeguards to report from their guard tower. The data are transferred via wireless Internet to a website hosted on the Mote Marine Laboratory Sarasota Operations of the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratories (SO COOL) server.
The system has proven to be robust and well received by the public. The system has reported variability from beach to beach and has provided vital information to users to minimize their exposure to toxic marine aerosols.
asthma; Florida red tide; Harmful algal blooms; ocean observing systems; beach conditions; Karenia brevis
The 2001 anthrax mail attacks in the United States demonstrated the potential threat of bioterrorism, hence driving the need to develop sophisticated treatment and diagnostic protocols to counter biological warfare. Here, by performing flux balance analyses on the fully-annotated metabolic networks of multiple, whole genome-sequenced bacterial strains, we have identified a large number of metabolic enzymes as potential drug targets for each of the three Category A-designated bioterrorism agents including Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis. Nine metabolic enzymes- belonging to the coenzyme A, folate, phosphatidyl-ethanolamine and nucleic acid pathways common to all strains across the three distinct genera were identified as targets. Antimicrobial agents against some of these enzymes are available. Thus, a combination of cross species-specific antibiotics and common antimicrobials against shared targets may represent a useful combinatorial therapeutic approach against all Category A bioterrorism agents.
Bacillus anthracis infection (anthrax) can be highly lethal. Two recent outbreaks related to contaminated mail in the USA and heroin in the UK and Europe and its potential as a bioterrorist weapon have greatly increased concerns over anthrax in the developed world.
This review summarizes the microbiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of anthrax.
Results and conclusions
Anthrax, a gram-positive bacterium, has typically been associated with three forms of infection: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and inhalational. However, the anthrax outbreak among injection drug users has emphasized the importance of what is now considered a fourth disease form (i.e., injectional anthrax) that is characterized by severe soft tissue infection. While cutaneous anthrax is most common, its early stages are distinct and prompt appropriate treatment commonly produces a good outcome. However, early symptoms with the other three disease forms can be nonspecific and mistaken for less lethal conditions. As a result, patients with gastrointestinal, inhalational, or injectional anthrax may have advanced infection at presentation that can be highly lethal. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with gram stain and culture from blood or tissue followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR). While antibiotics are the mainstay of anthrax treatment, use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists are a consideration. Prompt surgical therapy appears to be important for successful management of injectional anthrax.
Bacillus anthracis; Anthrax; Pathogenesis; Diagnosis; Treatment
The discovery of a letter intentionally filled with dried Bacillus anthracis spores in the office of a United States senator prompted the collection and quarantine of all mail in congressional buildings. This mail was subsequently searched for additional intentionally contaminated letters. A microbiological sampling strategy was used to locate heavy contamination within the 642 separate plastic bags containing the mail. Swab sampling identified 20 bags for manual and visual examination. Air sampling within the 20 bags indicated that one bag was orders of magnitude more contaminated than all the others. This bag contained a letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy that had been loaded with dried B. anthracis spores. Microbiological sampling of compartmentalized batches of mail proved to be efficient and relatively safe. Efficiency was increased by inoculating culture media in the hot zone rather than transferring swab samples to a laboratory for inoculation. All mail sampling was complete within 4 days with minimal contamination of the sampling environment or personnel. However, physically handling the intentionally contaminated letter proved to be exceptionally hazardous, as did sorting of cross-contaminated mail, which resulted in generation of hazardous aerosol and extensive contamination of protective clothing. Nearly 8 × 106 CFU was removed from the most highly cross-contaminated piece of mail found. Tracking data indicated that this and other heavily contaminated envelopes had been processed through the same mail sorting equipment as, and within 1 s of, two intentionally contaminated letters.
On October 12, 2001, two envelopes containing Bacillus anthracis spores passed through a sorting machine in a postal facility in Washington, D.C. When anthrax infection was identified in postal workers 9 days later, the facility was closed. To determine if exposure to airborne B. anthracis spores continued to occur, we performed air sampling around the contaminated sorter. One CFU of B. anthracis was isolated from 990 L of air sampled before the machine was activated. Six CFUs were isolated during machine activation and processing of clean dummy mail. These data indicate that an employee working near this machine might inhale approximately 30 B. anthracis-containing particles during an 8-h work shift. What risk this may have represented to postal workers is not known, but the risk is approximately 20-fold less than estimates of sub-5 micron B. anthracis-containing particles routinely inhaled by asymptomatic, unvaccinated workers in a goat-hair mill.
Bacillus anthracis; anthrax; risk assessment; occupational exposure
In 2001, a bioterrorism attack involving Bacillus anthracis spore-laced letters resulted in 22 cases of inhalation anthrax, with five fatalities. This incident identified gaps in our health care system and precipitated a renewed interest in identifying both therapeutics and rapid diagnostic assays. To address those gaps, well-characterized animal models that resemble the human disease are needed. In addition, a rapid assay for a reliable diagnostic marker is key to the success of these efforts. In this study, we exposed African green monkeys to B. anthracis spores; examined clinical signs and physiological parameters, including fever, heart rate, complete blood count, and bacteremia; and evaluated the PCR assay and electrochemiluminescence (ECL) immunoassay for the biomarkers protective antigen and capsule. The results demonstrated that although there were neither objective clinical nor physiological signs that consistently identified either infection or the onset of clinical anthrax disease, the African green monkey is a suitable animal model exhibiting a disease course similar to that observed in the rhesus model and humans. We also demonstrated that detection of the biomarkers protective antigen and capsule correlated with bacterial loads in the blood of these nonhuman primates. The ECL immunoassay described here is simple and sensitive enough to provide results in one to two hours, making this assay a viable option for use in the diagnosis of anthrax, leading to timely initiation of treatment, which is a key component of B. anthracis therapeutic development.
We used unpublished reports, published manuscripts, and communication with investigators to identify and summarize 49 anthrax-related epidemiologic field investigations conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1950 to August 2001. Of 41 investigations in which Bacillus anthracis caused human or animal disease, 24 were in agricultural settings, 11 in textile mills, and 6 in other settings. Among the other investigations, two focused on building decontamination, one was a response to bioterrorism threats, and five involved other causes. Knowledge gained in these investigations helped guide the public health response to the October 2001 intentional release of B. anthracis, especially by addressing the management of anthrax threats, prevention of occupational anthrax, use of antibiotic prophylaxis in exposed persons, use of vaccination, spread of B. anthracis spores in aerosols, clinical diagnostic and laboratory confirmation methods, techniques for environmental sampling of exposed surfaces, and methods for decontaminating buildings.
anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; bacterial infections; disease outbreaks; public health; bioterrorism; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.); historical article (publication type); zoonoses