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Science. 1994 Nov 18;266(5188):1202-8.

The Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak of 1979.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


In April and May 1979, an unusual anthrax epidemic occurred in Sverdlovsk, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Soviet officials attributed it to consumption of contaminated meat. U.S. agencies attributed it to inhalation of spores accidentally released at a military microbiology facility in the city. Epidemiological data show that most victims worked or lived in a narrow zone extending from the military facility to the southern city limit. Farther south, livestock died of anthrax along the zone's extended axis. The zone paralleled the northerly wind that prevailed shortly before the outbreak. It is concluded that the escape of an aerosol of anthrax pathogen at the military facility caused the outbreak.

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