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What is "Weapons Grade Anthrax" Anyway?

The Washington Post did its part to inform a nervous public by publishing an article which explains the terminology that public health officials use to describe an infectious agent's potential to cause disease. This is helpful, because many news accounts that were published yesterday, like The New York Times article Anthrax Mailed to Senate Is Found to Be Potent Form were loaded with unscientific but serious-sounding terminology.

Another question which has not been answered in print is how many people could be infected by the amount of anthrax that can be mailed in a Number 10 envelope? It's hard to believe that anyone is going to get pulmonary anthrax unless the anthrax is actually airborne. How much lighter could the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle be than confectioners' sugar? And, what is the likelyhood that confectioners' sugar sent in a business envelope would make it into a building's ventilation system?

John McCain has the threat in proper perspective, in our opinion. In the New York Times article Sense of Unease Grips Anthrax Preoccupied Washington, McCain said: "We have had one death from this stuff, and three other confirmed cases. Two of those three are a milder form of the disease. More people have been struck by lightning in the last 10 days, I'll bet, than have contracted anthrax. The country badly needs to settle down."

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