Amerithrax victims facing long term effects

Over the last 10 years, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has quietly monitored the medical concerns of the 17 people who survived the anthrax attacks that were perpetrated in the weeks following the September 11, 2011, terror attacks.

The group is the largest pool of anthrax survivors ever studied by U.S. researchers. The work is expected to provide the most comprehensive look at the long-term effects of acute anthrax exposure, according to

“No one has ever documented follow-up in anthrax survivors,” Dr. Mary Wright, an investigator with the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said, reports.

Previous studies on the effects of anthrax are at least 50 years old and contain little information on the long-term effects or possible complications from exposure. NIAID is the only research agency tasked with following the health of the attack survivors, a project they began in February 2002.

Several of the affected are U.S. Postal Service workers who inhaled the potentially deadly spores or were exposed to them through contact with the skin, according to Five of the 22 who were exposed died in the fall of 2001.

All but one of the survivors are regularly evaluated at least once every two years. The study is expected to continue as long as the participants are willing to be involved.

According to Wright, the testing includes neuropsychological, blood and hormone level examinations.

In 2004, the NIH released information about a one year follow-up study of 15 of the survivors conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the first year after the attacks, eight of the victims had yet to return to work and all of those studied were receiving psychiatric care.

Most reported a variety of symptoms, including chronic cough, fatigue, memory problems, depression, anxiety and hostility. Eight reported joint pain and decreased physical functioning.

Wright recently reported that in the nine years since, those that initially faced the most severe health problems continue to have the most persistent symptoms, reports. Although some of them have returned to work, they report that they are unable to function at the same level as they were previously.

“We are hoping what we learn, once we publish, is if there are new cases, including natural cases, that they can learn from this experience and monitor some of these variables, like hormone levels and memory testing and offer some support to folks,” Wright said, according to

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National Institutes of Health

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