Missouri, Illinois first responders simulate biological attack

First responders from the St. Louis County Health Department and 17 other departments from Illinois and Missouri participated in a biological attack drill on Thursday.

The health officials tested their response to a wide spread biohazard, particularly how effectively they could dispense medicine in case of anthrax exposure. The drill was held in Jefferson Barracks Park in St. Louis, KPLR 11 reports.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anthrax is a deadly disease caused by the spore-forming Bacillus anthracis bacterium. Anthrax was used as a weapon in the United States in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks, when it was spread deliberately through the postal system in letters that contained anthrax powder. Twenty-two people were infected with anthrax, and five died as a result of the infection.

Anthrax, which is not known to spread from one person to another, can be transmitted by touching, inhaling or digesting anthrax. Humans can become infected by handling products from infected anthrax, inhaling anthrax spores from infected animal products or by eating undercooked meat from infected animals. Inhalation anthrax is the most severe form of the disease. Those with cutaneous anthrax, which occurs from touching the bacterium, can be cured with early antibiotic treatment.