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Washington Post Explains Mail Sorting Machines' Possible Roles in Anthrax Outbreak

An article on page A11 of today's Washington Post begins to explain how postal workers could have contracted pulmonary anthrax with minimal exposure to anthrax-tainted mail. According to this article, pulmonary anthrax can be contracted if the right kind of anthrax spores are suspended in the air. The spores may have been made airborne in the Washington DC postal facility by the routine cleaning of the sorting machinery.

This is a scenario that we thought was unlikely as late as last night. However, the Washington Post article points out: "Tests performed on monkeys between the 1940s and 1960s indicate that a person must inhale at least 8,000 to 10,000 spores to develop inhalational anthrax. The amount of material would weigh only eight thousandths of a millionth of a gram, and would not be visible to the naked eye...."

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