Did terrorists use keyboard as biological weapon?

FBI finds anthrax on sick man's PC

Updated FBI investigators in Florida are looking at the possibility of a double case of anthrax being the result of an act of terrorism. Traces of the disease have been found on one of the men's computer keyboards at work.

The US government is on a high state of alert following the plane attacks last month and the current bombing of Afghanistan and has warned citizens that biological or chemical weapons may be deployed by terrorists.

When one man contracted anthrax - the first case since 1978 - the authorities were informed. However when a second man - who was a work colleague of the first - was diagnosed, the FBI were called in. The first man, Robert Stevens, has since died from the disease. Fears were heightened when it was revealed one of the hijackers in the September attacks lived very near by in the preceding months.

Investigators were desperately trying to find the source of the bacteria and eventually found traces on the man's computer keyboard, prompting speculation that terrorists could use keyboards as a way of spreading any biological weapons.

As we reported in August this year, computer keyboards are an ideal environment for bacteria to breed. Computers cause static electricity and so attract dust and bacteria. They also tend to be quite warm, which bacteria love. And of course thanks to close contact with hands an a very effective of spreading it from one person to another.

This fact works for and against the theory of terrorism however - the bacteria may just be there because keyboards are such a good breeding ground. The authorities are taking no chances though and all the staff in the building in Boca Raton have been sent home and told to take antibiotics if they feel at all ill. ®

Update

Just as an add-on, Dr Adrian Midgley has been in touch to put us toward a piece he wrote for GP magazine Pulse on the risk of infection through computer keyboards. Check it out here if you're interested.

Another good link is here, which mocks the example of anthrax as a fear-inducing biological weapon. Disinformation, it claims.

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