Anthrax Information Page

Anthrax Information Page

Because of the concerns over anthrax in the United States, here is a list of authoritative links that can help separate fact from fiction.  


What is anthrax?
Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. 

We found a lot of useful information posted at: Centers for Disease Control
  How do you get anthrax?
There are three forms:
…cutaneous (skin) through contact
…ingested, intestinal 

The concern in America right now is if someone, such as terrorists, want to attack the population with anthrax, how would they do it.  Through items in the mail?  Through spraying from the air such as with cropdusting airplanes?  Other contamination of water or food supply?

What are the symptoms of anthrax?
They vary depending on how someone came into contact with it, but usually appear within 7 days.

Cutaneous (skin contact)
Begins as a raised itchy bump that resembles an insect bite.
Within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm in diameter.  The scab that typically forms over the lesion can be black as coal, hence the name anthrax – Greek for coal.
Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell.

Initial symptoms may resemble a common cold. 
After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock.

Intestinal (ingested) 
Characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal 
tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever 
are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe 
Is anthrax contagious?  Can one person with anthrax give it to another person?
The CDC says it’s unlikely.
Was anthrax created by terrorists?  Does it occur in nature?
There are said to be supplies of anthrax that might be used by terrorists, but anthrax does exist among some animals and in some agricultural areas.
How is anthrax diagnosed?
Through a blood test for the presence of the bacterium that causes it. 
What are the treatments for anthrax?
Antibiotics, preferably as quickly as possible.
Is anthrax always fatal?
Fatality depends on the type of anthrax contracted and how quickly treatment is started.  
What constitutes a “suspicious parcel?”
Some typical characteristics Postal Inspectors have detected over the years, which ought to trigger suspicion, include parcels that:

…Have any powdery substance on the outside. 

…Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you. 

…Have excessive postage, handwritten or poorly typed address, incorrect titles or titles with no name, or misspellings of common words.

…Are addressed to someone no longer with your organization or are otherwise outdated. 

…Have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified as legitimate. 

…Are of unusual weight, given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped. 

…Have an unusual amount of tape. 

…Are marked with restrictive endorsements, such as “Personal” or “Confidential.” 

…Have strange odors or stain.
More information can be found at: U.S. Postal Service
What Should I do if I Receive an Anthrax Threat by Mail?
…Do not handle the mail piece or package suspected of contamination.

…Notify your supervisor, who will immediately contact the Inspection Service, local police, safety office or designated person.

…Make sure that damaged or suspicious packages are isolated and the immediate area cordoned off.

…Ensure that all persons who have touched the mail piece wash their hands with soap and water.

…The Inspectors will collect the mail, assess the threat situation and coordinate with the FBI.

…Designated officials will notify local, county, and state health departments.

…Designated officials will notify the state emergency manager.

…List all persons who have touched the letter and/or envelope. Include contact information. Provide the list to the Inspection Service.

…Place all items worn when in contact with the suspected mail piece in plastic bags and keep them wherever you change your clothes and have them available for law enforcement agents.

…As soon as practical, shower with soap and water.

…If prescribed medication by medical personnel, take it until otherwise instructed or it runs out.

…Notify the Center for Disease Control Emergency Response at 770-488-7100 for answers to any questions.

More information can be found at: U.S. Postal Service

updated 01/09/13

Anthrax-deaths associated with a particular kind of envelope-Fiction!

A Particular Kind of Envelope Associated with Deaths from anthraxFiction!



Summary of eRumor:
This is an anthrax warning.  The writer says he or she got a call from a good source at the Centers for Disease Control saying that there have been 7 deaths from anthrax coming in the mail, all of them in the same type of envelope.  It has a United States flag on it and a message about “Help the Families.”  The writer says that if you get that envelope, call the CDC.

The Truth:

(11/7/01)  As of this writing, there have not been any cases of anthrax poisoning associated with such an envelope.  Also, if you do have suspicion of anthrax being present, don’t call the CDC first.  Call 911 and notify your local authorities.

Savannah Foraker-forward emails to help with her medical costs-Fiction!

Forward Emails about Savannah Foraker and She’ll Get Financial Help for Her Illness-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
This email says it’s from Antonia Foraker of Delight, West Virginia and that her daughter Savannah has a rare blood disease.  The email says that local businesses have offered to pay a nickel for each email that is forwarded about her.  The email then lists the names of her family and an email address to respond to.
The Truth:
This appears to be a hoax.  There is no Delight, West Virginia, nobody with the first or last names in the email found in West Virginia, and the person who owns the email address listed says he knows nothing about the story.  Additionally, there is no way for your forwarded emails to be tracked. using the site for identity theft-Fiction!

Crooks are Getting Enough Information from to Commit Identity Theft-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
This message says that a friend of the writer got a warning from the IRS about and that criminals are using it to steal personal information and Social Security numbers. It says that the crooks can get the birth information from the site then for a fee, can get an “advanced report” with Social Security numbers. It suggests that you use the website’s “opt-out” function to have your information removed.
The Truth:
The website collects birthdates from public information sources and if you visit there, you can find a surprising number of people’s birth dates. According to the site, all the information comes from records that
anybody can have access to if they know where to look. denies that it gives out Social Security numbers under any circumstances, free or paid. It does offer an “opt-out” page for anyone who is uncomfortable with their birth date being on the site.
There is no evidence that anyone has gotten Social Security numbers from the site and identity theft would require more information than is available from
If a person’s city and birthdate was enough to jeopardize a person’s personal records and identity, celebrities would be in big trouble. Most of their places of residence are known and their birth dates are freely published in almanacs, newspaper columns, and on the Internet.

AOL Is Splitting from the Internet and setting up its own technology-Fiction!

AOL Is Splitting From The Internet-Fiction!



Summary of eRumor:  This email says that effective April 15, AOL is separating itself from the Internet and will operate on its own.  People will not be able to send and receive email between AOL and the rest of the Internet and, according to the email, AOL regards itself as the original Internet and wants everybody to sign up.

The Truth:

  This is a hoax.  It was launched on the Internet on April Fool’s day, 2001.

AOL and Intel-get cash for forwarding an email about a merger-Fiction!

AOL and Intel Discussing a Merger and if You Forward an Email About it, They’ll Send Money-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
AOL and Intel are merging and to keep the value of their merger high, they are conducting an email test.  It’s to keep the email usage of AOL at a peak level. If you forward the email to your friends, Intel will track your forwarded emails for a period of two weeks (If you use Microsoft Windows) and will send you a check for more than $200 for each person who received your email.  Further money will be given if the people you sent it to forward it to others.
The Truth:
This is a hoax.  AOL and Intel deny that they are participating in any such promotion.  Additionally, there is no practical way for anybody like Intel to track and account for the emails you forward to other people.

AOL Instant Messenger security hole-Truth! but Resolved!

A Security Hole in AOL Instant MessengerTruth! but Resolved!



Summary of eRumor:
1-03-02 A warning that says that a security hole has been discovered in AOL Instant Messenger that can allow hackers to access your computer.

The Truth:

This was true, but a spokesman for AOL, Andrew Weinstein, says there were no security breaches that they’ve heard of and that the problem has been fixed.  

Because the glitch was in their system at AOL, it has been fixed without customers having to download any new software or patches.

According to Weinstein, the flaw was in AOL’s most recent Windows version 4.7 and did not affect non-Windows machines.

Last updated 1/5/02

Tree in cemetery looks like popular images of Jesus-Truth!

A Tree in an Illinois Cemetery Seems to Have an Image of Jesus Growing On the Trunk-Truth! 

Summary of eRumor:  
This is an email that is short and simple, but with a link to a picture that is attracting attention…a tree in a cemetery in Illinois that seems to have an image of Jesus holding a lamb growing out of the trunk.

The Truth:

Like seeing shapes in the clouds, this phenomenon depends on who is looking at it, but the tree does exist and large numbers of people say they have seen the image.  

The website with the picture has now been taken down, but the tree is in Calvary Cemetery in Quincy, Illinois, and has become a local tourist attraction. has had contact with both the cemetery and the photographer who took the pictures that are being circulated on the Internet. 

The photographer says his pictures are un-doctored.  Most people report that they see an image of Christ standing and holding a lamb. 

The image was first spotted in 1998, but officials at the cemetery were concerned about any disruption that might occur and kept it quiet for several months.  Once the word got out, however, people started coming by the hundreds and some even vandalized the tree.  It is now protected by a fence and a cemetery spokesperson says there are still daily visitors who want to see the tree.  

We’ve received several emails from folks asking, “How do people know it’s an image of Christ since we don’t know what Christ looked like?”  Good point.  It is more accurate to say that people are seeing what our culture has regarded as images of Christ.

Updated 4/9/08

Not Only Were the Events of 9/11 Overwhelming, but so were the Rumors-Special Article

Not Only Were the Events of 9/11 Overwhelming, but so were the Rumors

By Rich Buhler, Creator of



UA Flight 175 hits WTC south tower on 9/11


There was another historic effect of the Attack on America on September 11, 2001.   It generated more rumors on the Internet through forwarded emails than anything before or since.

In the middle of the shock, anger, and uncertainty of that day, forwarded emails became the underground newspaper of the country. Those eRumors were a way that people shared information with each other that they thought was being ignored or overlooked by mainstream media. If a person received a message with news that was alarming, interesting, explanatory, or inspiring that he had never heard before it seemed to make sense that friends and family may have not heard of it either so he or she decided it would be better to forward it to them too.

Those forwarded emails were not only abundant but circulated at lightning speed around the world. Here are some of them:

The Last Tourist


Alleged photo of the last touristat the top of
the World Trade Center moments before impact.


One of the first rumors was known as “The Last Tourist On the World Trade Center.” It was a picture of a young man posing for a snapshot on an observation deck atop one of the Twin Towers in New York. With the Manhattan skyline behind him he looked like one of a multitude of innocent travelers who had done the same thing. The difference was that in this picture an American airlines jetliner was closing in on the tower behind the unwary visitor and it appeared that he was a fraction of a second from disaster. The picture was accompanied by a message that said the photo came from a camera that was discovered in the rubble of the collapsed building.

We received more inquiries at about “The Last Tourist” picture than any other story about 9/11. The truth is that the picture was a hoax.

We were able to quickly determine that it was a fake because of several parts of the story that didn’t fit with the facts. For example, only one of the Twin Towers had a public observation deck and that was tower number 2, which was not hit by an American Airlines plane but rather an airliner hijacked from United Airlines. We were also able to locate the actual picture from the Internet that had been used to paste the American Airlines aircraft into “The Last Tourist” photo. It was from the website and was a shot of a Boeing 757. The American Airlines plane that hit tower number 2, however, was a Boeing 767.

Our readers also got involved and pointed out several other inconsistencies such as that the tourist was dressed for cold weather but the temperature in Manhattan that day was forecast to be a high of 81 degrees and that the airliners impacted the towers while in a banking turn, not in straight and level flight.

Several weeks later it was revealed that the picture was created by the man in the photo, a student from Hungary identified by his friends as Peter. He used Photoshop to paste the picture of the airliner into the shot and sent it to a few of his contacts as a joke. He never dreamed it would go to the inboxes of millions of people. He remained unidentified for months until some of his friends saw other people taking credit for the picture and they spilled the beans about him on the Internet.

Most of the time the readers of accept our findings but in this case we got a ton of complaints from people who had gotten emotionally involved with the picture and did not want to accept that it was fiction. Some of them were overwhelmed by it and grieved the loss of the simple-looking man on the tower who didn’t know he was about to die. Many said they had been weeping and praying over him and his family. They were not willing to believe that such an emotional investment had been stimulated by a practical joke, albeit a joke that was in very bad taste.

Terror at American Shopping Malls on Halloween

Another massively circulated email not only spread widely and rapidly but actually had documented impact on a segment of the American economy. Shortly after 9/11 an alarming eRumor warned that there could be terror attacks at shopping malls in the U.S. on Halloween in October of 2001.

There were various versions but they all followed a particular pattern of rumors that sometimes pop up after civil unrest. A typical message described a woman who had a Middle-Eastern boyfriend who disappeared mysteriously in early September. He left a note, however, or later sent a message, that made it clear he was not returning and that alerted her to avoid flying on commercial airplanes on 9/11 and to stay away from shopping malls on Halloween. Since the email appeared after 9/11 and seemed to have predicted the attacks it was easy to think there was also substance to the Halloween warning.

The resulting tsunami of forwarded emails was amazing. Even people who were skeptical about the message forwarded it to family and friends anyway “just in case it might be true.” There were probably dozens of versions of this eRumor spread by hundreds of thousands of people but one email in particular rose to the top and became the message that most people received and passed along. That resulted in what I call an “Unintended Internet Celebrity.”

A woman who worked for a California company was distressed by the email and took a few seconds to pass the message on to her friends and family. Her name, email address, and place of employment were all in her forward and it also appeared as though she knew the story first-hand and was friends with the woman who had the Middle-Eastern boyfriend. Her simple dispatch became the one most often forwarded and it exploded into inboxes all over the world. She was immediately besieged with emails and phone calls from people asking if the story was true. Her place of employment was clogged with calls and the email traffic shut down their email server. She was not only embarrassed by all the attention but also with the fact that she wasn’t supposed to use her work email for personal messages.

The warning had a huge effect, however, and according to the International Council of Shopping centers (ICSC) there was a measureable reduction of shoppers at U.S. malls on Halloween that resulted in losses in the millions of dollars. It caused such concern that I was later invited to be a general session speaker at the annual ICSC Security Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. No evidence was ever found that the story was true and no law enforcement agencies had any credible evidence that there were threats to U.S. malls. Halloween 2001 came and went with no problems.

True Stories

There were plenty of true stories that circulated after 9/11 and some of them were inspirational. One popular eRumor claimed that a new U.S. Navy ship, the USS New York, was partly constructed with steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center. The story is true. The USS New York was one of three ships carrying names that were associated with 9/11. The other two are the USS Arlington, named because of the location of the Pentagon, and the USS Somerset, named after the county in Pennsylvania where United flight 93 crashed after being taken over by hijackers.


Michael Hingson
with his guide dog


There were several true personal accounts of people who survived the attacks such as the story of Michael Hingson, a blind man who was on the 78th floor of Tower One when it was struck by a jetliner. A report of him and his guide dog Roselle working as a team to escape the burning tower and helping others escape became an international news story. Some of the most popular true inspirational stories from September 11 emerged from the experiences of airline passengers whose planes were diverted when the air traffic system across the U.S. was shut down in response to the hijackings. Delta flight 15, for example, was an international flight that spontaneously took refuge in Gander on the Island of Newfoundland, one of more than fifty jetliners that landed there for the same reason. The confused, uncomfortable, and inconvenienced Delta passengers spent the night in their airplane but learned the next morning that Gander and many surrounding communities had opened all their high schools, lodges, churches, and many other meeting halls into shelters and some residents even welcomed travelers into their homes. The passengers of flight 15 were cared for by the citizens of a town named Lewisporte. The travelers were so grateful that they established a trust fund to provide scholarships for students of Lewisporte to attend college. Many similar stories were told by the passengers of other planes that went to Gander.

Rumors that Refuse to Die

There are some emails from 9/11 that still circulate today. One of them has caused fits for the folks who make Pepsi, which has been unfortunate, because the story is not, and never was, about Pepsi. The eRumor claims that the soft drink giant created a patriotic can after 9/11 that had an anti-religious flaw: It left the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The truth is that Pepsi did not produce such a can. The original eRumor was about Dr Pepper and that company did create a post-9/11 patriotic can. It had the Statue of Liberty on one side and a phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance on the other side. But it was not the entire pledge. Ninety percent of the pledge was omitted, not just the phrase “under God,” and there was no intent to focus on deleting a reference to deity. The eRumor left the impression that the whole pledge was quoted without “under God,” which, of course, would have been more incriminating. Somewhere along the way the Dr Pepper eRumor was altered and the name of Pepsi was substituted for Dr Pepper and the Pepsi version got wider and longer distribution.

These are all a good reminder that every time you click your mouse to send an email you have become a publisher on the largest publishing machine that has ever existed, the Internet. Even though you may have sent it to a handful of your friends it takes only a few generations of each of those friends forwarding it to their friends to spread around the world. No matter how few contacts we send an email to, they deserve to know that we’ve done our best to make sure it is accurate.