From 9/11 to Anthrax The world changed after 9/11 as we became aware that we were vulnerable to terrorism. As I mentioned in my previous posting, the postal facility I was working at was purposely kept under the radar. This was done because we were one of a few facilities that repaired postal equipment. This anonymity was to protect the supply-line of equipment. There was some comfort in knowing that we were not so obvious a target. As the days following the attacks unfolded there was much discussion regarding the possibility of further attacks and how they may be carried out. One such scenario was the distribution of some biological agent into the water supply or air. Anthrax specifically was mentioned as such an agent. What Is Anthrax? Anthrax is a naturally occurring microorganism and can be found is such common places as dirt and animals. Anthrax is caused by Bacillus anthracis, a bacterium that forms spores. A spore is a cell that is dormant but may come to life with the right conditions. Anthrax infection can come in three forms skin (cutaneous) lungs (inhalation) digestive (gastrointestinal) In its self anthrax is not particularly dangerous but when cultivated and processed becomes a deadly toxin. Anthrax Enters The Postal System When you mail a letter the Postal Service moves and sorts each piece by machine. As an envelope is processed it travels along the sorting equipment by being squeezed between moving belts. Any type of power present in an unsealed envelope can easily be puffed into the air by this action. It was shortly after 9/11 that anthrax loaded envelopes started showing up in the mail. At first it was only the recipient of the envelopes that were of concern, but shortly it was evident that the entire postal system was at risk. Dont Come To Work Tomorrow Monday, October 22, 2001 was a typical day and that evening I was relaxing in front of the TV when the phone rang. It was our receptionist and she was telling me that because of potential anthrax the facility was going to be closed. A company wide meeting was going to be held at another postal facility on Tuesday and details would be given at that time. Cipro® At the Tuesday meeting we were informed that there was some equipment that had arrived form a facility where anthrax laden mail was processed. At this time anthrax had not been identified but because of the potential they thought it best to close the facility. The symptoms and treatment for anthrax was discussed and it was recommended that we contact our family doctor and get a prescription for Cipro®. (By the way Cipro® does really nasty things to you. After 10 days I was able to switch to another antibiotic with less side effects.) So, how much anthrax does it take to kill a person? This was a question that kept coming up in various meetings and press releases. I was told initially that it would take an amount about one tablespoon size to be effective. When you pressed the experts for further information you sensed that they really did not know. In succeeding meeting this amount of exposure kept getting less and less. It really hit home when a woman died just because one of her letters had brushed up against a tainted envelope at a postal sort facility. We bring you this late breaking news report As the news of our facility made it to the news, reporters, photographers, and news helicopters descended on our stealth facility. So much for keeping it under the radar/ This three week vacation is brought to you from the makers of anthrax It took three weeks for our facility to be decontaminated and as it turned out the timing could not have been better. On the evening October 24th I returned home to find that the sewers had backed up into the lower half of our house (we have a split level home). The vacation allowed me to clean up the mess. All clear After the facility was given the all clear we returned to work but things were never the same. Besides the extra precautions there was a fear that another attack could always be right around the corner.