BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 23:42 GMT
Anthrax - the silent killer
Only five Americans have died of anthrax but the impact of the outbreak has been enormous. There have been thousands of scares in the US and around the world, almost all of them false alarms. Investigators are still trying to find a link with international terrorism or the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

Here, BBC News Online charts the history of the outbreak, the first example of biological warfare in the 21st century.

5 October 2001

Panic after first death

Bob Steven was a picture editor for The Sun newspaper
Bob Steven was a picture editor for The Sun newspaper

Bob Stevens, a 63 year old picture editor living in Florida, became the first person to die of anthrax in the US since 1978. In the days afterwards, sales of gas masks rocketed as fear of biological attack spread across the country.

 The BBC's Stephen Sackur reports

15 October 2001

Anthrax hits Capitol Hill

US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle
US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle

Ten days later it was discovered that a letter opened in the office of US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had anthrax in it. Between 40 and 50 members of staff were treated following exposure.

 The BBC's Gavin Hewitt reports

23 October 2001

Two postal workers die of anthrax

Much of Capitol Hill was closed for anthrax tests
Much of Capitol Hill was closed for anthrax tests

Days later, anthrax was implicated in the deaths of two Washington postal workers. Both were employed in the office which sorted mail for Senator Daschle and the rest of the US Congress. Anthrax was also discovered in a postal facility serving the White House.

 The BBC's Stephen Sackur reports

 Anthrax victim Thomas Morris describes how he contracted anthrax

Trail leads to Trenton

A US mailbox
A dozen mailboxes in Trenton were found to be contaminated

Letters sent to the Senate and to media organisations in New York have been traced back through the mail to a suburb of Trenton, New Jersey. Federal investigators even believe they may have pinpointed the apartment building where the packages were mailed.

 The BBC's Jane Standley reports

1 November 2001

Anthrax claims fourth victim

The hospital where Kathy Nguyen worked
Kathy Nguyen worked at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat hospital

A hospital worker from New York has died from inhalation anthrax. The authorities say it is a "mystery" how Kathy Nguyen aged 61 contracted the condition. She does not appear to have had any link with any of the locations contaminated by anthrax.

 The BBC's Stephen Sackur reports

21 November 2001

Fifth victim is 94 year old woman

The authorities are baffled as to how Ottilie Lundgren contracted anthrax
The authorities are baffled as to how Ottilie Lundgren contracted anthrax

Ottilie Lundgren from Connecticut lived alone in a small rural community and rarely went out. The US authorities are at a loss to explain how she could have contracted anthrax. She was admitted to hospital with symptoms akin to pneumonia and died a few days later.

 The BBC's Rob Watson reports

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories