Here’s What You Need to Know About the Anthrax Accident

TIME

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday that 86 of its staff members in Atlanta are being monitored for possible anthrax exposure.

Scientists at the facility routinely study the bioterror agent, which is classified at “Biosafety Level 3,” meaning it can cause fatal infections and is transmitted easily by inhalation.

Bacillus anthracis occurs naturally in soil and can infect wild and domestic animals, who can transmit the bacteria to humans. In the U.S., livestock are routinely vaccinated against anthrax, which keeps the number of domestic outbreaks low. Once inside the body, anthrax produces toxins that can be fatal if left untreated. Because the spores are microscopic and can be mixed into powders or liquids and into the food supply, the biggest threat of anthrax infection may come from bioterrorists. In 2001, spores were sent in the mail to political leaders and members of media, and five…

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