Anthrax. What will be next?

There are rumours that the suspicious mail arrived in Moscow too. Experts informed to The Vek newspaper that there were letters indeed. Luckily, the powder inside the envelopes was not “the anthrax powder.” However, there is much anxiety left on the matter. We asked Gennady Onishenko - Russia’s chief sanitary inspector to clarify several things about the bacteriological terrorism.

- Several cases of anthrax in the U.S.A. resulted in the informational explosion. This information is so contradictory that it can give birth to panic. It would be better to understand – where the myth is and where the reality is. Former Minister for Ecology, Danilov-Danilyan (he is currently taking the position of the Ecological Union leader) asserted, the terrorists could just dig out the cattle burial grounds – there are hundreds of such grounds in Russia, with the animals that died of anthrax. High technologies are not requisite in this case, if the terrorists wanted to make the bacteriological weapon. So the authorities assure there is no direct access to anthrax bacteria, but in reality it turns out it can be reached easily.

- There are actually not hundreds of those burial grounds, but thousands of them. Do you know some people “eat” anthrax? They see their domestic animal is sick, they kill it, boil the meat and eat it. They are not rich to throw the product out, they know the natural anthrax can be treated with antibiotics. If you “try really hard" then it will be possible to infect several people. But not more, there will not be the epidemic situation.

- What if throwing the anthrax bacteria in a source of water or spray it above a stadium? Mass media said, hundreds of thousands of people would die.

- It is impossible to catch anthrax through water. Speaking about spraying – it is hard to become infected with anthrax in a respiratory way. The lab culture is much more dangerous.

- Some scientists say the notorious powder is of clear American origin.

- I think it is only a version, there is no official conclusion to it. But the producer will be found – each laboratory culture has its “passport” – its typical features.

- Anyway, the specialists consider the variants of large acts of terrorism.

- I agree with those, who say the goal of the biological acts of terrorism in America is not a mass epidemic situation. There are much more efficient ways or that, unfortunately. Terrorists wanted to plant the seeds of panic. They knew they will make a gigantic fire, if they send white powder to mass media. They got what they wanted.

- Here is another statement: if the anthrax epidemic occurs in Russia, then we will be totally unprotected since there will be not enough of vaccine for everyone.

- The people just do not realize the sense of the matter. About 60 thousand people undergo vaccination annually in Russia – they are presumably workers from the field of agriculture. The biological war is a mass destruction of, let’s say, hundreds of thousands of people. No terrorists will be able to produce so many microbes.

- It is now known there are only 32 states of 50 in the U.S.A. having the sanitary and epidemiological services. What about Russia?

- There are such services working in every region of the country, they are rather mobile and equipped on a good level. There is an anti-plague service, it also deals with all dangerous infectious diseases. These are 2 levels of defense. By the way, before 1917 about 15 thousand people used to fall ill with anthrax in Russia annually as well as 70 thousand animals. 20% of them died. Now the number of patients is not more than 20.

- There is an opinion that anthrax is the most “harmless” variant chosen by terrorists; that smallpox is much more scarier. It has been 20 years since the vaccination against smallpox stopped.

- I do not feel like giving instructions to a terrorist. But the smallpox problem is really serious. There has been no smallpox incident on the planet during several decades, that is why the World Healthcare Organization decided to cancel the vaccination. In May of the coming year the Organization intends to consider the question pertaining to the final liquidation of smallpox culture. Not only Russia and the U.S. legally have it. We believe the smallpox culture must not be destroyed. First of all the situation in the world has changed drastically. Let’s imagine someone kept an ampoule with smallpox and wished to let it out. If we have no lab culture of smallpox, it will not be possible to produce the vaccine. Besides, the smallpox culture of a monkey can turn to the smallpox culture of a human being, which is also very dangerous. Finally, there should be the new vaccines developed, because the uptodate ones are very hard for human organism to endure. Anti-smallpox injection is a serious strike on a human organism.

Ap photo: a researcher at the Infectious Disease Research Center of Laval University in Quebec City, inserts a tube in a device to test for the bacillus anthracis (Anthrax), Friday Oct.19, 2001

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Author`s name Editorial Team