The unsolved anthrax attacks in which samples of the deadly acute infectious disease were mailed to victims across the United States may have been solved. But the full story behind the mailings, which killed five people and sickened 17 others, may never be fully known.
Published reports indicated that a 62-year-old scientist who had worked at a government bio defense lab killed himself with an overdose of Tylenol with codeine as the FBI was closing in.
The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, had, according to the Los Angeles Times, recently been told that he would be prosecuted.
Anthrax was mailed to private citizens, members of Congress and to news media outlets shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Traces of anthrax resulted in the closing of postal facilities for extensive and expensive cleaning. Benign powdery substances discovered in mail elicited biological hazardous materials responses from authorities, the isolating of workplaces and the "decontamination" of people as a precautionary measure. Some mail carriers took to wearing surgical masks and latex gloves while making their rounds. And some people microwaved mail they received from unknown sources in what they believed to be a process to kill off the spore-forming bacterium.
As of this writing the FBI has not yet commented on the news reports. Let's hope, given the high profile the attacks created and the fear they spawned across the nation, that a statement will soon be forthcoming.