Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Amerithrax 2001

The Beginning of the Outbreak

Still reeling from the horrendous attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, Americans psychologically braced themselves for another terrorist attack at any moment. Little did they know at the time that it had already begun with a most unexpected weapon.

It appeared to have begun on September 21, 2001, when a 31-year-old editorial assistant for the New York Post, Johanna C. Huden, noticed a red bump on the middle finger of her right hand. Initially, the bump, which looked much like a bug bite, wasn't cause for concern. However, after a couple of days the bump began to swell and turn black, worrying Huden, who thought it was an infection.

The doctor removed the blackened mass. Yet, the morning after the procedure the wound had not healed, despite the antibiotic treatment she had been given. In fact, it had gotten worse. Moreover, she began to experience flu-like symptoms.

Nevertheless, she continued on with her daily routine and went to work, hoping that the antibiotics would soon take effect. They had not. According to an article by Huden in the Post, Giving the Finger to Bioterrorists, she and her boss were watching the news when they learned that someone working for NBC had been infected with anthrax. To Huden's horror, she also learned that the symptoms of anthrax were identical to what she was experiencing, "red lesion, black, necrotic skin," and flu-like symptoms. Immediately she went to Mount Sinai Hospital, fearing the worst.

Cipro tablets in bag
Cipro tablets in bag
At the hospital, Huden was examined, x-rayed and a biopsy was taken of her lesion. Just to be sure the doctor gave her Cipro, a drug known to kill the anthrax bacteria, and sent her home. After all, the chances of her having contracted anthrax in New York City were extraordinarily slim. However, chance was not on her side.

A finger with cutaneous anthrax
A finger with cutaneous anthrax
The very next morning Huden was asked to return to the hospital, where she was confronted with a nightmare. The clinical test results suggested that she contracted the disease, although more testing was needed to be sure. A final diagnosis was made days later after further test results revealed that she had indeed been infected with cutaneous anthrax.

Fortunately for Huden, she eventually recovered. Yet, others were not so lucky. Over the subsequent months, the bacterial disease infected more than 21 people and claimed five lives. Shockingly, the anthrax infections were not a natural occurrence, but the work of a terrorist. One who continues to be at large and who remains a serious threat to American citizens and the world.

 

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