Berwyn Fire Department Investigating a Possible Anthrax Exposure at MacNeal Hospital

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Berwyn Fire Department responded about 5:30 p.m. Monday, September 11, 2023 to investigate a report of an Anthrax exposure at MacNeal Hospital, 3249 South Oak Park Avenue in Berwyn.

A MABAS Division 11 Box Alarm #900 for a Hazmat incident was activated about 5:36 p.m. The Hazmat Box Alarm was struck out by 6:06 p.m.



Anthrax has been developed as a weapon by some countries and has been used in biowarfare and bioterrorism since 1914. In 1975 the Biological Weapons Convention prohibited the “development, production and stockpiling” of biological weapons, but Anthrax been used in bioterrorism attacks. Anthrax is most commonly spread by exposure to animal products in Africa, central Asia and southern Asia.

Likely delivery methods of weaponized anthrax include aerial dispersal, dispersal through livestock, and via postal letters that contained Anthrax spores. In response to the anthrax attacks of October 2001 (immediately after the 9/11 Terrorist attacks), the United States Postal Service (USPS) installed biodetection systems (BDSs) in large-scale USPS mail processing facilities.

Anthrax is a lethal bacteria, and spores can live for decades. Infections occur via skin, lungs, intestines, and injection. Anthrax is rare in the United States or northern Europe. Anthrax does occur more frequently in southern Europe (Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Turkey (East Thrace), Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, southern France, Spain, and Vatican City) compared to northern Europe.


Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, letters laced with anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in U.S. history, according to the FBI.

The ensuing investigation by the FBI and its partners—code-named “Amerithrax”—has been one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.

In August 2008, Department of Justice and FBI officials announced a breakthrough in the case and released documents and information showing that charges were about to be brought against Dr. Bruce Ivins, who took his own life before those charges could be filed. On February 19, 2010, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service formally concluded the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks and issued an Investigative Summary.

The Amerithrax Task Force—which consisted of roughly 25 to 30 full-time investigators from the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and other law enforcement agencies, as well as federal prosecutors from the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section—expended hundreds of thousands of investigator work hours on this case. Their efforts involved more than 10,000 witness interviews on six different continents, the execution of 80 searches, and the recovery of more than 6,000 items of potential evidence during the course of the investigation.

The case involved the issuance of more than 5,750 grand jury subpoenas and the collection of 5,730 environmental samples from 60 site locations. In addition, new scientific methods were developed that ultimately led to the break in the case—methods that could have a far-reaching impact on future investigations.

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