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Medical News & Perspectives
March NaN, 1999

Scary Scenarios Spark Action at Bioterrorism Symposium

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JAMA. 1999;281(12):1071-1073. doi:10.1001/jama.281.12.1071-JMN0324-4-1

ARLINGTON, VA—The packed ballpark was tense with excitement. The home team was up by two runs with two outs in the top of the ninth. Nobody paid the slightest attention to a truck that stopped briefly outside the park. Even if anyone had seen it, they couldn't have known that during its brief stop the truck released an aerosolized cloud of anthrax spores that were now wafting over the crowd on a balmy breeze.

Two days later, people presented at local hospital emergency departments with nasal congestion and fever. The illness was initially diagnosed as influenza. But in succeeding days, more and more people became ill. Then deaths began to be reported. Finally, 5 days after the exposure occurred, a hospital laboratory identified anthrax as the cause of the outbreak, and antibiotic treatment was begun in those who had been exposed. Even so, of the 20,000 people estimated to have been at the ball game, 4000 died.

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