Anthrax Victims Suffering Long After Attacks
2001 Anthrax Attacks Have Lasting Physical, Psychological Impact
WebMD News Archive
First Look at Long-Term Effects of Bioterrorism continued...
The researchers noted that medical tests often could not
pinpoint the cause of their complaints.
For example, eight survivors reported moderate to severe joint
problems, decreased physical functioning, and prolonged work absence. But 11
diagnostic tests, including X-rays and lab tests, performed on six of these
patients showed no signs of immune or inflammatory disorders or other common
medical explanations for these symptoms.
Reissman says those findings suggest that posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) may be responsible for some of the physical as well as
"Since we were not able to link from a causal point of view
the ongoing health problems with the anthrax infection or the toxins released
by the bacteria, we're left with the traumatic situation," says
Luciana Borio, MD, senior fellow at the Center for Biosecurity
at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says it's not unusual for PTSD
in the wake of a terrorist event to cause a variety of physical symptoms, the
cause of which cannot always be determined through conventional medical
"The way people perceive physical symptoms sometimes is
difficult to measure and may be due to psychosocial distress," Borio tells
WebMD. "These symptoms seem more consistent with PTSD -- not because
they're not there, but because we can't measure it."
As further evidence that the symptoms may have a psychological
basis, the study showed that the severity of the complaints among the victims
was nearly the same between the inhalational and cutaneous anthrax survivors
except in the areas of physical and social functioning. In those measures,
inhalational anthrax survivors tended to suffer more due to the severity of
Bioterrorist Attacks Cause More Than Disease
To put their results into context, researchers compared their
findings to studies on long-term survivors of other infectious diseases and
persons with chronic health conditions because there is so little information
on the long-term effects of anthrax.
In comparison, anthrax survivors had a harder time adjusting to
life after infection and fared far worse than persons with chronic illness on
most measures, such as physical functioning, bodily pain, and mental