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We accept accidents and illnesses as normal risks of living. So also for criminal aggressiveness. Psychologically, terrorism should have a similar perspective.

The annual death toll from world terrorism is much smaller than from accidents on the highways. The anthrax fraction of terroristic acts is minuscule indeed. The context of anthrax is clearly that of a low level threat. Even in the Middle East, terrorism takes fewer lives than do avoidable accidents and illnesses.

The goal of the terrorist is to debilitate victims by fear. Yet life goes on in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Nations that have decided to put a stop to terrorism have been able to do so. One example is the Thugs of India, whose reign of arbitrary murder lasted for centuries until the rulers finally decided to stamp them out of existence. They did not get what they wanted, ultimately, and neither can al Qa'ida.

Simply put, although terrorism via anthrax is an unavoidable low-level risk in today's world, it remains much less of a daily threat than highway accidents. In each case, no one is immune. Anthrax just gets more publicity by virtue of its rarity.

Practical Context

Anthrax is infectious, not contagious. Spores enter the body and do their damage, but there they stay until the infected organism gets well or dies. Spores are released after the organism dies and decays, as wild or domestic animals do if their carcasses are not otherwise disposed of. Contagious diseases are those that one can catch from an infected person, the common cold and influenza are prominent examples. Anthrax does not spread in that way. Breathing dust generated from a decaying carcass could give you the pneumonic form of Anthrax. Handling such a carcass could cause infection through a break in one's skin. Ingestion of spores from a carcass could, also. Each of these events is extremely rare.

Anthrax must be highly processed before it can be a meaningful weapon. This requires highly trained individuals with full protection during their preparations.

Although anthrax spores have been delivered by ordinary mail with some effect, it is possible to safely irradiate the mail and neutralize this terror means. The Post Office is reported to be moving in that direction.

Vaccines and antitoxins are effective medical treatments. Their availability has improved and inoculations of personnel likely to be exposed has widened. If you are concerned, check with your doctor about vaccine availability. Check also with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

For the status of the anthrax-by-letter attack see: Anthrax-by-Letter Information


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