Research shows psychological impact of anthrax attack on Seattle

A new study recently assessed the potential consequences of a major anthrax attack directed at Seattle, Washington, in order to gain a better insight into how residents would react in such a situation.

Researchers at the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events examined the potential psychological and economic impact an attack would have by interviewing hundreds of Seattle residents, according to

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded study focused on perceptions of risk, health awareness and the possible changes that would occur after an anthrax attack claimed 50,000 victims. The study examined how government actions could make a difference in whether or not people returned to the city or chose to live somewhere else.

"The way we did this is by using the Department of Homeland Security's national planning scenarios of an anthrax attack," Heather Rosoff, a post-doctoral research associate at CREATE, said, reports. "What we did is we took the language of the scenario and developed it further into short videos segments starting with the initial attack and extending out over a two year period."

The video segments were designed to emulate real news coverage of the event. Participants in the study watched the videos and then responded to a survey.

The study showed that an attack would have long-term consequences for the economic health far beyond Seattle's city limits.

"An anthrax attack like this could have a devastating impact on the real estate market," researcher Adam Rose said, reports. "It would really cause a major decline in property values."

The decline could extend far into suburban areas and the surrounding region. A significant number of residents would leave and business would most likely follow. If Seattle were the target, underwater mortgage levels in the city could increase by up to $15 million and foreclosures could reach 70,000.

In addition, the stigma of living in a city that was attacked by a bioterror agent would cause more residents to eventually leave. The study determined that up to 20 percent of the population would seek to live elsewhere. In Seattle, this would mean 300,000 people. More than 200,000, however, would be affected by foreclosures.

Government intervention would have to be gauged appropriately. Too much intervention, according to researcher Richard John, could stigmatize the population.

"We found the more it was suggested the government would implement certain policies, the more afraid residents were," John said, according to