Anthrax is a deadly bacterial infection caused by the bacterium bacillus anthracis. The infection comes from contact with the bacteria’s spores through broken skin, eating or breathing. Although skin infections can have as little as a 24 percent fatality rate, lung or respiratory infections can kill 50 to 80% of victims even with access to treatment. Symptoms of inhaled anthrax often include fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Fears that North Korea may have been able to weaponize anthrax arise as a defector tested positive for antibodies, which means he was either exposed to the disease prior or had been vaccinated. The discovery is causing great discomfort throughout South Korea since a vaccine is not currently available for their military.
Choi Hyun-soo, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokeswoman said a “vaccine is expected to be developed by the end of 2019,” but does not think one will be readily available sooner.
Recent reports identify concerns of North Korea possibly carrying out illegal biological weapons testings possibly in effort to load a missile with a deadly disease such as anthrax. Suspicions of chemical weapons manufacturing in North Korea began in 2015, when the country made works in the Pyongyang Biological Technology Research Institute available to the public.
The South Korean official who came forward with information regarding the defector carrying anthrax antibodies spoke on the condition of remaining anonymous. The official did not say which of four defectors that have come over in the last year had tested positive.