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Anthrax Clock
Media: digital
©2002 Hunter O'Reilly, Ph.D.

In the Fall of 2001, bioterrorism became a reality in the United States. "From October 4 to November 2, 2001, the first 10 confirmed cases of inhalational anthrax caused by intentional release of Bacillus anthracis were identified in the United States. Epidemiologic investigation indicated that the outbreak, in the District of Columbia, Florida, New Jersey, and New York, resulted from intentional delivery of B. anthracis spores through mailed letters or packages."1

Inhalational anthrax has an incubation period of 1-6 days. The inhaled bacteria can produce toxins or poisons that eventually enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. The illness lasts 3-5 days initially manifesting itself with flu-like symptoms and is usually fatal if left untreated. Antibiotics can cure inhalational anthrax only if they are administered in the early stages of infection. There is a small window of time after exposure to aerosolized anthrax spores where treatment will prevent death.

Images of anthrax cell walls (blue) and spores (green) are multiplying beneath the face of the artist. As the concentration of anthrax increases the facial expression changes from happy to pained to comatose. Bioterrorism can happen at anytime. Will treatment be available for everyone who needs it in time?

The confocal micrograph of anthrax was generously provided by Elizabeth White at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Photographs of Dr. Hunter O'Reilly were taken by Brian Bednarek.

1 Jernigan, John A. et al., "Bioterrorism-Related Inhalational Anthrax: The First 10 Cases Reported in the United States," Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 7, No. 6, November/December 2001.


Copyright © 2002 Hunter O'Reilly, Ph.D.