In 2001, Oxford made international headlines when 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren mysteriously died of anthrax poisoning. There had been a wave of anthrax attacks in New York and Washington at that time, and this case stumped investigators. No additional reported cases in the area deepened the mystery surrounding Lundgren’s death.
Anthrax is a silent and deadly bacteria that enters the body insidiously by breathing, eating, or through an area of broken skin. Untreated, death is inevitable.
For weeks Ottilie Lundgren had been complaining about an annoying cold that she couldn’t seem to shake, so when her niece Shirley Davis visited her at her home in Oxford and found her 94-year-old aunt having trouble breathing, she brought her to the hospital. For days doctors did tests trying to figure what was making Lundgren so sick. It was only when, in a hail-Mary attempt to diagnose and hopefully treat the poor woman, she was tested for anthrax that the reality set in — somehow a mostly housebound elderly woman had been poisoned with the same anthrax that had been sent to U.S. senators and members of the media. Lundgren quickly became the fifth and last victim of the anthrax attacks that changed the way mail is handled, made Cipro a household drug, created the phrase “person of interest” and led to one of the most expensive and controversial FBI investigations ever.
In the end, the investigation concluded that a piece of Lundgren’s mail had crossed passed with one of the infected envelopes traveling through the postal system. Because of her advanced age and weakened eyesight, whenever she opened her mail she put it directly up to her face in order to be able to read it. They surmised that she must have either inhaled the anthrax or absorbed it through her thin, papery skin.
If invisible to the eye bacteria can wreak such havoc, how much more so are the more obvious threats. There is no one who does not want to feel safe and protected, especially in the comfort of their own home.
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