Anthrax Known as Silent Killer
Posted February 19, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — Anthrax is a type of bacteria that usually infects animals. It is deadly because by the time you notice the symptoms, it's almost always too late.
It would only take a tiny amount of anthrax to kill hundreds of people. Once the victim inhales the toxin, it spreads through the bloodstream and can be fatal.
"The worst form of the disease is the inhalation form where you take the organisms in through breathing," explains Newton MacCormack, an expert in communicable diseases. "That form tends to occur as pneumonia and can be quite severe and even fatal."
MacCormack says getting to people who have been infected is difficult because often they don't realize they have been exposed. Symptoms of anthrax start 12 hours after exposure.
Early vaccination is the key to preventing sickness and even death. But if anthrax is released into the air, it has the potential of creating problems for years to come.
MacCormack believes that if biological warfare is a defense posture, you wouldn't want to creat that kind of problem for a country about to be taken over.
There is a vaccine for anthrax. Antibiotics can also be used to treat anthrax if administered within 12 hours of exposure.