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Netflix documentary series recounts salad bar bioterror attack

Netflix is set to premiere a series called “Wild Wild Country” this month that tells the story of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the largest bioterror attack in U.S. history.

In 1984, more than 700 people in The Dalles, OR, contracted Salmonella infections after followers of Rajneesh sprinkled the pathogen on salad bar ingredients in 10 local restaurants. The action was an effort to swing the results of an election.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Several thousand of his followers had moved onto a ranch in rural Wasco County in 1981 and incorporated as a city they named Rajneeshpuram. They took political control of the small nearby town of Antelope and hoped to take over leadership of Wasco County because of land use conflicts caused by the commune’s drastic expansion.

The plan to make regular voters sick so the Bhagwan’s followers could be elected turned into the first and largest bioterrorist attack in U.S. history. Two leading Rajneeshpuram officials ultimately were convicted on charges of attempted murder and served 29 months of 20-year sentences in a minimum-security federal prison.

In all, 751 people were sickened in the attack. Forty-five people were hospitalized, but there were no fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The religious cult’s attempt to sway the election was unsuccessful.

Netflix used archival footage and contemporary interviews for the series, which is scheduled to start March 16.

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