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Sverdlovsk Revisited: Modeling Human Inhalation Anthrax

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Several models have been proposed for the dose-response function and the incubation period distribution for human inhalation anthrax. These models give very different predictions for the severity of a hypothetical bioterror attack, when an attack might be detected from clinical cases, the efficacy of medical intervention and the requirements for decontamination. Using data from the 1979 accidental atmospheric release of anthrax in Sverdlovsk, Russia, and limited nonhuman primate data, this paper eliminates two of the contending models and derives parameters for the other two, thereby narrowing the range of models that accurately predict the effects of human inhalation anthrax. Dose-response functions that exhibit a threshold for infectivity are contraindicated by the Sverdlovsk data. Dose-dependent incubation period distributions explain the 10-day median incubation period observed at Sverdlovsk and the 1- to 5-day incubation period observed in nonhuman primate experiments.

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