The Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak of 1979

Science. 1994 Nov 18;266(5188):1202-8. doi: 10.1126/science.7973702.


In April and May 1979, an unusual anthrax epidemic occurred in Sverdlovsk, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Soviet officials attributed it to consumption of contaminated meat. U.S. agencies attributed it to inhalation of spores accidentally released at a military microbiology facility in the city. Epidemiological data show that most victims worked or lived in a narrow zone extending from the military facility to the southern city limit. Farther south, livestock died of anthrax along the zone's extended axis. The zone paralleled the northerly wind that prevailed shortly before the outbreak. It is concluded that the escape of an aerosol of anthrax pathogen at the military facility caused the outbreak.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Aged
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Anthrax / epidemiology*
  • Anthrax / history
  • Anthrax / microbiology
  • Anthrax / transmission
  • Anthrax / veterinary
  • Bacillus anthracis* / immunology
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Biological Warfare
  • Disease Outbreaks* / veterinary
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meteorological Concepts
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spores, Bacterial
  • USSR / epidemiology
  • Wind


  • Aerosols
  • Bacterial Vaccines