True TPM regulars will remember that a week and a half ago I pointed out an intriguing pattern in the distribution of anthrax cases in the recent outbreak. In short, with a couple of exceptions, people over fifty were getting inhalation anthrax and people under fifty were getting skin anthrax. So far, only twenty-two Americans have come down with disease -- both types combined. But still, the pattern got me wondering. So I looked into it a bit further.
And as I wrote in this article in Salon on Monday (which unfortunately you need a subscription to read), it turns out that the pattern is real. Or, perhaps better to say, it's not random.
People middle-aged and older are substantially more susceptible to getting inhalation anthrax than young adults. And children and adolescents, in particular, seem to have some particular source of resistance - though no one believes it's absolute. This isn't just the familiar fact that immunity declines as we age either. It's something different -- though precisely what it is remains unclear.
Why haven't you heard about this? Good question! Because this information comes from a report that was published almost a decade ago - a study of that accidental release of weaponized anthrax back in Russia in 1979. One tidbit: though many young people were exposed in the outbreak no one under 24 contracted inhalation anthrax.
Isn't this the sort of info you'd think the public should know about? I would have thought so. But apparently the CDC doesn't.
As I said, if you want more details, check out in the article in Salon.
Next up, I take on smallpox! No, really. No kidding. It's coming out later this week.