If you have read about anthrax or watched the documentary “Anthrax War,” you know how deadly the disease can be. It’s transmitted to humans through contact with an infected animal, in whichever way. From a 75-year-old reindeer carcass to heroin use and deliberate bioterrorism attacks, there is no shortage of anthrax contamination cases. Here are some historically fascinating anthrax facts.

1. A Spore-forming Bacterium Causes Anthrax

Though rare, anthrax can be a severe disease capable of causing massive catastrophic destruction. It is caused by a spore-forming bacterium known as Bacillus anthracis. Even though it can affect humans, anthrax is more prevalent in wild game and livestock.

2. Anthrax Is A Possible Terror Weapon

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks that happened in 2001, terrorists sent letters laced with anthrax to individuals, killing 5 and sickening 17 others. There have been other similar attempts, making anthrax a major bioterrorism weapon.

3. Anthrax Spores Can Survive For Decades

Studies show anthrax spores can remain active for decades, depending on their hosts. For instance, the disease-causing organisms can survive 2 years in water, about a decade in milk, and more than 70 years on silk threads.

4. Heroin Use Caused An Anthrax Outbreak in 2010

In 2009, leading into 2010, a massive anthrax outbreak was reported in parts of the United Kingdom and Germany. Interestingly, the spread was attributed to heroin use.

Apparently, a batch of the drug had come in contact with an infected animal while being smuggled to Scotland. 14 people died, and more than 100 sickened.

5. There Is A Vaccine for Anthrax

Today, people at an increased risk of contracting anthrax-causing bacteria, probably due to the nature of their job, can be vaccinated against the disease. Those who are already exposed to the conditions also qualify. The vaccine, however, is not available for the general public.

6. A Drum-maker Contracted Anthrax from Goat Skins

A drum-maker historically contracted anthrax after inhaling spores causing the disease from goat skins. In one of his tours with a dance troupe in Pennsylvania, the drum-maker suddenly got ill, not knowing what was eating him.

As it turns out, he had recently travelled to Africa, where he returned with several goat skins for his drum-making business. While preparing them, the anthrax spores flew into the air he inhaled and got sick.

7. Vultures Can Help Stop Anthrax Spread

Anthrax usually originates from animal carcasses, boosting its spread. However, vultures have strong stomach acids that allow them to feed on infected animals without consequences.

Additionally, these predatory birds do not sweat, ruling out the possibility of further spreading the disease through physical contact.

8. Anthrax Was Once a Part of “Operation Vegetarian”

In 1942, the British military devised a plan targeting the meat-eating population. Dubbed “operation vegetarian,” the soldiers dropped cakes infected with anthrax on German fields. They anticipated that if the cows ate the cakes and were fed on by humans, they would infect them with anthrax.

However, this plan did not see the light of day. The over 5 million cakes meant for the operation were destroyed, and the test site in Scotland was considered unsuitable for human habitation until the 1990s.

9. A 75-Year-Old Reindeer Carcass Once Caused an Anthrax Outbreak

After about 13 people in Yamal Peninsula, Northwest Siberia, suffered from an anthrax outbreak in 2016, medical experts attributed its cause to a 75-year-old reindeer carcass. This was after the disease’s spores from the dead animal were activated following an increased summer heat wave that caused permafrost thaw.

10. Historical Cracked Magazines Were Destroyed Because of Possible Anthrax Contamination in 2001

Today, cracked.com is a website serving humorous content to its audience. However, before it became an online platform, it used to publish its content in hardcopy magazines.

Unfortunately, in 2001, the company had to do away with more than 40 years of original archived content. This was after a series of anthrax attacks that meant the magazines could have been contaminated.

11. Ernest Hemingway Survived Anthrax

Ernest Hemingway is a renowned writer and former soldier whose work preceded his reputation. His life wasn’t problem-free, though. If anything, he survived anthrax and other conditions such as diabetes, dysentery, kidney rapture, and high blood pressure. Not to mention the broken skulls, a couple of plane crashes, and second-degree burns he suffered.

12. Brutus Beefcake Caused an Anthrax Scare By Leaving His Bug in a Subway

Following the anthrax attacks in 2001, the world was on high alert. So, when pro wrestler Brutus Beefcake left his bag in the Boston Subway in 2004, it caused a huge scare. It turns out the bag contained cocaine.

13. A Japanese Religious Cult Failed in An Attempt To Kill People Using Anthrax

In 1993, a religious cult in Japan known as Aum Shinrikyo released aerosolized anthrax in the country’s capital, Tokyo. In the activity that lasted a few days, the perpetrators anticipated doing away with thousands of civilians.

Unfortunately (for them), they used a strain meant for livestock vaccinations, so instead of harming their targets, there is a possibility that they immunized them against what was to kill them eventually.

Categorized in:

General Knowledge,

Last Update: September 19, 2023