Friday, August 01, 2008

Did the FBI solve the case of ...

... the "Anthrax Mailer"? Perhaps.
The Times said federal investigators moved away from Hatfill and concluded Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert Mueller changed leadership of the investigation in 2006. The new investigators instructed agents to re-examine leads and reconsider potential suspects. In the meantime, investigators made progress in analyzing anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two U.S. senators, according to the report.

Besides the five deaths, 17 people were sickened by anthrax that was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The victims included postal workers and others who came into contact with the anthrax.
Inhalation anthrax isn't one of the nicest ways to go. It's caused when an individual inhales spores of the organism Bacillus anthracis*. Over the next sixty days or so, the spores germinate and then the organisms start to go to work. At first, an infected individual will suspect that they have the flu. Fever, chills, sweating, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath ... they're all typical signs.

Then the fun starts. At this point, a lot of ugly stuff can happen in what is known as the "secondary stages" of inhalation anthrax. The organisms can pass through the lung tissue and infect the area between the lungs. The medical term for this is mediastinitis. From this point the organism can spread to the heart, other blood vessels, bone tissue and into the bloodstream. The individual can also develop hemorrhagic meningitis, which is essentially bleeding of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. From there, it's shock ... and essentially the entire body is going to shut down with multiple organ failure. The prognosis isn't good. People who get into the secondary stages have a recovery rate of about 10%. The further into the complications one gets, the less likely they are to survive.

All in all, it's not a good end. If Bruce Ivins was responsible ... well, I guess one could say that he reaped what he sowed.

*Links to information on the bacterium and its diseases can be found at the links. Also here and here as well. The organism has also been sequenced.

No comments: