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Dust Up: Office bustle launches anthrax spores

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11:09am, December 11, 2002

The commotion of everyday business can give anthrax spores a second wind, a new study suggests. Normal office activity stirs up the dangerous particles parked on contaminated indoor surfaces and sends them into the air.

After letters packed with the bacterium Bacillus anthracis passed through several buildings in the eastern United States in the fall of 2001, anthrax infections killed 5 people and sickened 17 others.

In an office suite in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., while it was closed after workers received an anthrax-containing letter, government investigators set out to assess the environmental risks. The tainted letter had scattered spores onto surfaces and into the air in the suite where it was opened.

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