Anthrax Attacks

What You Need


  • Standard size poster board and markers or crayons
Anthrax Attacks Photo Credit: CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


To develop an understanding about the disease Anthrax, how it is transmitted, and its effects on the body.


Students should extend their study of the healthy functioning of the human body and ways it may be promoted or disrupted by diet, lifestyle, bacteria, and viruses. After studying microbes, students should consider diseases and how they affect body systems.

This lesson focuses on the bacterial disease known as Anthrax. Anthrax has been identified as a disease that infects primarily cattle. There are known cases of people contracting this disease directly from handling infected cattle. In light of recent terrorist attacks on the United States, the threat of Anthrax being used for germ warfare is prevalent. There are three ways to contract this potentially deadly disease: through skin contact, ingestion, and inhalation.

In this online lesson, students will research the disease and its impact on human health. By the end of the lesson, students will have gained the knowledge that bacterial diseases may invade and damage different body systems. To further study benchmark concepts, students will study the effects of similar diseases and ways to fight these invaders.


Begin class by having students read the following online articles about the anthrax cases that occurred in 2001.

After students have read the articles, discuss these questions:

  • What organism do you think causes anthrax?
  • What are some of the ways anthrax can be contracted?
  • What are some of the symptoms of anthrax?
  • What body systems are affected by anthrax?
  • Why do you think anthrax is so damaging to the respiratory system?
  • Can anything be done to prevent an anthrax infection?

At this point in the lesson, it is not important that students correctly answer all of these questions. Rather, the discussion should be used to help guide the student research that follows.


In this part of the lesson, students will conduct independent Internet research on anthrax. They will use what they have learned to create a “Wanted Poster” for the bacterium anthrax.

Begin by distributing the Wanted Poster student sheet and reviewing the required criteria for the poster. Students will then explore the websites listed on the student sheet on their own. After having gathered the information, students will create their posters for homework and present them in class.

After all of the students have presented their posters, review what students have learned by discussing these questions:

  • Why is our nation more concerned now about the possible threat of Anthrax? (Students will likely mention the incidents of contaminated mail that occurred at the end of 2001.)
  • What are precautions that our nation is using to protect its citizens from this threat? (Students will likely mention vaccinations and increasing the supplies of antibiotics that can prevent or cure anthrax. They may also talk about some of the new precautions being taken in post offices to prevent the spread of anthrax through the mail.)
  • Why is anthrax one of the few microorganisms used in biological weapons? (Because anthrax spores can survive for a long time, because the spores can be spread through the air, and because inhalation anthrax is almost always fatal.)
  • How difficult would it be to release anthrax spores into the air? (Anthrax bacteria and spores cannot actively move around. Instead, they move passively, transported by wind, or animal carriers.)
  • If anthrax spores are inactive forms of bacteria, how can they make you sick? (Once inside the body and lungs, the spores migrate to the lymph nodes and change to the bacterial form. Then they multiply and produce toxins that cause bleeding and eventually destroy the respiratory system.)
  • What are the three different types of Anthrax and how does each type invade and damage the body? (There are three forms of anthrax disease, varying by the route of infection. People can get anthrax through a break in the skin (cutaneous anthrax), by eating inadequately cooked contaminated meat (gastrointestinal anthrax), or by inhaling bacteria or spores. Inhaled anthrax does not typically spread from person to person. Because anthrax spores can live in the soil for many years, animals can get anthrax by grazing or drinking water in contaminated areas. Weaponized anthrax could be used against people in almost any location, and in many different ways. The greatest threat with the most deadly consequences comes from inhaled anthrax.)
  • Can anthrax be spread from person to person? (Direct person-to-person spread of anthrax is extremely unlikely.)
  • How can anthrax be destroyed? (Anthrax spores can only be destroyed by exposure to steam heat, incineration, or fumigation with a poisonous gas. Active anthrax bacteria can be destroyed by a dilute bleach solution.)


Students should understand that anthrax is an infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium. They should also understand which body systems are affected by anthrax and how it is transmitted. It is also important that students understand that there are a wide variety of microorganisms that cause infectious diseases and that it is important to study and understand these organisms in order to prevent and/or cure these diseases.

You can use the rubric found on the Wanted Poster Rubric teacher sheet as a guide to evaluate students on the presentation of their Wanted Poster project, revising it as needed to suit your class.

Note:There are several resources on the Internet that describe the use of rubrics in the K-12 classroom, a few of which are highlighted here.

To learn more about rubrics in general, see Make Room for Rubrics on the Scholastic site.

For specific examples of rubrics, more information, and links to other resources, check out the following sites:

Finally, you can go to Teacher Rubric Makers on the Teach-nology.com website to create your own rubrics. At this site you can fill out forms to create rubrics suitable for your particular students, and then print them instantly from your computer.


For a historical perspective, the Science NetLinks lesson Sanitation and Human Health can help students learn about how improving sanitation helped stop the spread of bacterial diseases.

To learn more about the ways bacteria invade the body, direct students to the Science NetLinks lesson Microbes 1: What’s Bugging You?

Using the Virtual Biosecurity Center from the Federation of American Scientists, students can conduct further research on other possible germs or chemicals that might be used in weapons.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards State Standards