Anthrax is a nasty disease, but the terrorists could have picked something much worse.
We should consider ourselves lucky that they chose something that does not spread so easily.
Consider these facts:
- The spores have had many points of entry and places of exposure,
yet the infection rate has been very slow.
- Most of those infected have been cured with standard antibiotics.
Cipro is the standard treatment, but other antibiotics work just as well.
- A more effective bioterror agent would spread much more quickly and efficiently.
- Anthrax requires direct contact with a large number of spores,
and cannot be spread from person to person.
- Even the common cold spreads more easily.
Following is a list of facts on the disease and some notes on the possible preventative measures.
It was thoughtfully compiled by Jerry Lerman, which he included it in one of his
Bonehead of the Day
humor list mailings.
The bottom line: Don't panic. Read the facts before you form your own conclusions.
- The Anthrax spores are highly resistant to temperature
changes, highly resistant to radiation, highly resistant to
drying and many chemicals - including household chemicals.
- Microwaving your mail will not kill the spores until your mail
catches on fire. Not a good idea.
- Boiling your mail for 20 minutes will destroy both the Anthrax
spores and your mail.
- Gas masks are not an answer to terrorist dangers because:
- It can kill you if you do not remove the plastic seals before placing it on your face.
- Once exposed to the air, the charcoal canisters will become useless within hours.
- You need to wear it every single day, 24 hours a day,
changing canisters every couple of hours, for it to be effective since
you won't know if you were exposed to anything it can help with until days after exposure.
- Most chemicals used for warfare enter through your skin.
- Having Cipro around, just to be safe,
is not good because you need to take it 24 hours a day,
7 days a week for it to be effective since you won't know
for days after exposure that you've been exposed.
- Taking Cipro, just in case, will eventually kill you because
it is toxic and will also cause your body to mass produce
Cipro-resistant germs that may eventually kill us all.
- Cipro can have terrible side-effects, especially with frequent use.
- Penicillin and tetracycline may be just as effective.
- Your chances of getting Anthrax by touching your mail is four
times less likely than winning the lottery of your dreams: Somewhere around 200-million-to-1.
- It takes, on the average, 8,000 to 10,000 of the correct-sized
spores to cause the pulmonary type of Anthrax infection (the deadliest form).
People who work in wool mills breathe in about 400 to 500 anthrax spores a day
and never succumb to the disease.
Individual preventative measures are not necessary and can do more harm than good.
The chances of catching the disease are very slim.
(If you don't believe that, I have a few scratch tickets to sell you. They're a sure thing.)
In the very improbable case that you develop symptoms of the disease, go to a hospital.
They will put you on antibiotics that will take care of the infection.
There has been a rush to purchase the dangerous antibiotic Cipro,
which is the leading treatment for anthrax.
Before you rush to the internet to buy your own supply, check out this article
by PC Magazine's Christina Wood.
Online Cipro: Caveat Emptor
The United States Postal Service just sent out an informational sheet
to every address in the USA:
What should make me suspect a piece of mail?
- It's unexpected or from someone you don't know.
- It's addressed to someone no longer at your address.
- It's handwritten and has no return address or
bears one that you can't confirm is legitimate.
- It's lopsided or lumpy in appearance.
- It's sealed with excessive amounts of tape.
- It's marked with restrictive endorsements such as "Personal" or "Confidential."
- It has excessive postage.
What should I do with a suspicious piece of mail?
- Don't handle a letter or package that you suspect is contaminated.
- Don't shake it, bump it, or sniff it.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Notify local law enforcement authorities.