Timeline of the 2001 anthrax attacks in Florida

From Academic Kids

The following is a timeline the 2001 anthrax attacks in Florida.

Boca Raton, Florida


September 19

  • A letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez containing a Star of David and a bluish powder arrived in the Sun's mailroom in the American Media headquarters. Several people handled the letter, and Stevens sniffed some of the powder.

September 30

  • Robert Stevens, 63, photo editor at the supermarket tabloid The Sun, began feeling ill on the last day of a five-day vacation at his daughter's home in North Carolina

October 1

  • 6 a.m. EDT Stevens returned to his home. He spent most of the day in bed.

October 2

  • 2-2:30 a.m. EDT Stevens was admitted to the John F. Kennedy Hospital emergency room in Atlantis, Florida. presenting disorientation, a high fever, vomiting, and inability to speak.
  • 6 a.m. EDT Stevens was placed on a ventilator.
  • Stevens was examined for meningitis by infectious-disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush. Bush found a high white blood cell count and rod-shaped bacilli; he soon was convinced Stevens had contracted anthrax. He then notified the Palm Beach County Health Department.

October 3

  • In the evening, government investigators, including 12 investigators from the CDC, some from the Epidemic Intelligence Service, began their investigation into Stevens' movements of the last few days and potential sources of the anthrax. The hospital ships spinal fluid samples to state health officials and the CDC.

October 4

  • The CDC confirmed the anthrax diagnosis. Federal officials announced that Stevens was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday with non-contagious pulmonary anthrax. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson suggested Stevens may have contracted anthrax from drinking water from a contaminated stream, a medically far-fetched theory.

October 5

  • 4 p.m. EDT: Mr. Stevens died.

Sunday, October 7

  • In the afternoon, the government sealed the American Media building. In the evening, Bacillus anthracis spores were found on a computer keyboard Stevens used at the offices of The Sun. Anthrax spores were detected in the nasal passages of Ernesto Blanco, 73, mail supervisor at The Sun. The authorities decided to test all employees in the building.

Monday, October 8

  • 9 a.m. EDT 1,000 people, American Media employees or other long-term visitors, underwent nasal swab tests and began taking antibiotics from the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile.

Tuesday, October 9

  • American Media employees underwent blood tests.

Wednesday, October 10

  • 8 p.m. EDT: Officials announced that a third American Media employee tested positive for exposure to anthrax. The CDC laboratories, located in Atlanta, suffered a power failure caused by a short-circuited cable which lasted until Thursday morning.

Thursday, October 11

  • Stephanie Dailey, 36, the third American Media employee to test positive, identified herself and stated that she was in good health.

Saturday, October 13

  • American Media stated that the blood tests of five more employees, including two Inquirer employees, tested positive for anthrax antibodies.

Monday, October 15

  • Ernesto Blanco was diagnosed with pulmonary anthrax, and moved to the intensive care unit. The Florida Department of Health announced that a minuscule amount of spores were found in the Boca Raton post office. They were found in a small mail sorting area where mail for American Media is handled, specifically in the throwback slot of the letter case for the American Media route. The room was sealed and cleaned.

Tuesday, October 16

  • It is reported that the anthrax bacteria sent to NBC is of the same strain as that found in Boca Raton.


Sunday, July 11

  • Almost three years after the attack, decontamination begins on the former American Media headquarters building. The decontamination began with filling the building with chlorine dioxide for 12 hours.

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