The Silent Killers: Part One – Anthrax
In the grand scheme of murder, knives and guns pale in comparison to the instruments death that are nearly invisible to the human eye. Long before man shaped the first stone into a weapon, viruses and bacteria silently killed humans and animals alike. These tiny but deadly organisms can shut down the body’s entire operating system, and they can destroy every single organ in the body.
A terrorist attack involving deadly viruses and bacteria is a threat that looms over the heads of government officials. After all, a single, minute particle of either of the killer bugs, such as anthrax, botulism, tularemia, bubonic plague, ricin, ebola, and hantavirus, can be easily cultured and multiplied many times over. This process can be performed in any home in the country with minimal time, training, and equipment.
How easy? Well, a potential terrorist could simply order a starter bug from a laboratory supply company (a reference lab), much like a reader orders a book from Amazon. The bug is shipped to the buyer as a freeze-dried sample in the regular U.S. mail, or with any of the other popular shipping companies.
Of course, reference lab customers must have proper credentials to place an order for anthrax. However, packages could easily be intercepted by people with ill-intentions against the U.S. and its citizens. And, how difficult would it be for a potential terrorist to gain employment in the biotech industry (new drug discovery)? This is a field that’s comprised of scientists who work with these bugs on a daily basis with very little accountability, if any, in many instances. Many of these science-folks come to us from other countries and would be virtually undetectable as terrorists until it was too late. And, if all else failed for the terrorist, he could find the bacteria in its natural environment, growing naturally on dead plant material and in fresh water or rainwater.
Anthrax is caused by a spore-forming bacteria, Bacillus anthracis. Humans can become infected through skin contact, ingestion or inhalation of spores from infected animals or animal products. Anthrax can be delivered as a powder, such as in the cases of the letters mailed to U.S. officials. However, a better, more deadly method of delivery would be in aerosol form. Once the bacteria are inhaled, the disease progresses so rapidly that, once the symptoms began to appear, it would most likely be too late to prevent the victim’s death.
Skin lesion caused by anthrax – LIFE photo
Symptoms of anthrax contamination include, skin infections, fever, chills, fluid in the lungs, difficulty breathing, nausea, weight loss, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal bleeding. Contrary to the belief of some people, inhaled anthrax contamination is not contagious. It cannot be passed from one person to another.
Anthrax study requires that the work be conducted in a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory (BSL 2 labs are required to have waste contamination equipment on hand). However, if the study is to be performed on anthrax in aerosol form, a BSL 3 lab is required (BSL 3 labs require testing in enclosed equipment with high-tech ventilation systems. Access is limited to only those working on current experiments).
A 2008 anthrax investigation involving aggressive interview tactics by police investigators led to a bit of public protest. FBI agent and behavioral scientist Clint Van Zandt and I once discussed those tactics on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. You may remember Agent Van Zandt from his involvement in high-profile cases, such as Waco/David Koresh, Timothy McVeigh, and The Unabomber.
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Writers Police Academy
The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Novel Writing Contest is now open!
The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Contest Award winner will receive The Silver Bullet Award, free Writers’ Police Academy registration ($235 value), and have the opportunity to submit their entire manuscript to one of the judges (to be determined later based upon the genre and work itself). Additional prizes forthcoming. Here’s your chance to get your work in front of top agents and publishers! The contest is open to the general public and writers from all genres, not just academy registrants and mystery writers!
Please visit the Writers’ Police Academy website for details. www.writerspoliceacademy.com
Contest judges are:
Annette Rogers, Acquisitions Editor of the Poisoned Pen Press, searches for new, unpublished mystery writers. Recent successes include Carolyn Wall SWEEPING UP GLASS, Jeffrey Siger MURDER ON MYKONOS, and Edward Ifkovic LONE STAR. In addition she evaluates and edits manuscripts, corresponds with writers and agents, and fends off Facebook friend requests. Rogers published a bestselling travel book on EGYPT-translated into six languages, wrote for O, The Oprah Magazine, and covered court hearings on the Mormon Bomber case for Time/Life. She has a Masters Degree in History and English. www.poisonedpenpress.com
Benjamin LeRoy is a founder of Tyrus Books-a publisher specializing in crime and dark literary fiction. Before starting Tyrus in July of 2009, he founded and ran Bleak House Books. He lives in Madison, WI where he works on his own writing and is endlessly fascinated with the history of baseball. www.tyrusbooks.com
Elizabeth Pomada worked at David McKay, Holt Rinehart & Winston, and the Dial Press in New York City before moving to San Francisco in 1970 with her partner and husband, Michael Larsen. Together, they started Michael Larsen – Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. Since then, they have sold books from hundreds of authors to more than 100 publishers. Elizabeth is a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives, The Author’s Guild, ASJA, WNBA and co-founder with Michael of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing for Change conference. www.larsen-pomada.com
Kimberley Cameron began her literary career as an agent trainee at the Marjel de Lauer Agency in association with Jay Garon in New York. She worked for several years at MGM developing books for motion pictures. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 she became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. Among its clients have been Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Miller. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and Reece Halsey Paris in 2006. Her associate Elizabeth Evans opened Reece Halsey New York in 2008, and in 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates. www.kimberleycameron.com