Anthrax

“Hello Bloggins, what brings you into the office today?”

“Well, I’ve either got a cold or Anthrax.”

“I see.”

“I work over at the Donut Hole where we noticed this white powdery substance in a package that had been delivered to our shop. We figure they might be trying to poison our apple fritters. I brung you some.”

“This, Bloggins, is only ultra-refined chemically-distilled bleached icing sugar.”

“Whew, and here I figured it was something dangerous. Honestly doc, with all these half-wit fanatics running about jihading every Tom, Dick and Salman, me and the boys are a little twitchy these days. Frankly we’d like to dance a jihad of our own on these yahoos.”

“Apparently you can jihad anyone you want and fire off a few fat frothy fatwas while you’re at it. So what symptoms bother you today Bloggins?”

“Got a cough, muscle aches, a low grade temperature and a bit of a headache.”

“Well that certainly sounds like anthrax.”

“I knew it doc, I knew it, oh why me, why, why…!”

“But of course that also sounds like any of a million other flu-like illnesses. While anthrax starts off like flu for a few days, it is a three-stage disease. After three or four days of feeling lousy the patient seems to actually get better for a day or two. But then…”

“Oh oh! I have been feeling better!”

“…suddenly everything goes sour. Fever rises, breathing becomes labored and as the bugs get into the blood system, meningitis, shock and death follow within 36 hours.”

“Well let me tell you doc, shock isn’t the word for it, I am stunned beyond…”

“You do seem a little stunned Bloggins, but let me reassure you. There have only been 18 cases of inhalation anthrax in North America since 1900, the last in 1978. These cases all involved people who handled goat or sheep skin, wool sorters and the like. Because the anthrax spore lives in the dirt, grazing goats and sheep can on rare occasion pick it up. It cannot be caught from another person. While inhalation anthrax is quite fatal, another form of anthrax, cutaneous anthrax, is more common and less dangerous.”

“Ah ha! That explains the new wool longjohns the wife bought me after I treated her to that Ice Fishing weekend at Lake Frostbite on our 20th.”

“With about 230 cases in the past 50 years in North America cutaneous (skin) anthrax is still quite rare. Far from being cute, this form occurs when spores get into a cut or scrape on the skin. It festers and blisters and turns into large black scabs that resemble coal. In fact, anthrax comes from the Greek word for coal, anthracis.”

“How long until I find out if I have the flu or anthrax, doc?”

“The spore can take up to 60 days from the moment it is inhaled until it germinates and starts the illness. In 1979 aerosolized anthrax escaped a Russian military compound and infected 79 inhabitants of Sverdlovsk. 68 of them died, some weeks later.”

“Can I get a shot to prevent it?”

“Not yet. Anthrax vaccine, while required vaccination for all US military personnel is not routinely available. Because Saddam, who loves his weapons of mass destruction, was found in 1991 to have over 200 bombs and 25 ballistic missiles loaded with anthrax, those serving in the Persian Gulf are also vaccinated.

But for you Bloggins, I suggest that we send you to AA.”

“AA? Doc, I don’t know what you heard, but that lampshade looked just like my hat when…”

“Anthrax Anxieties. Currently, however, there is a huge waiting list. In the meantime go home and jihad all those worries. And as for those white powder terrorists… fatwa ‘em.”

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