Florida Man in Stable Condition; No New Anthrax Cases
The second Florida man exposed to anthrax -- American Media Inc. employee Ernesto Blanco -- remains in stable condition in a hospital and did not develop the disease. Also, preliminary tests indicate that the Virginia man thought to have been exposed to the bacteria is "unlikely to have anthrax," the Washington Post reports. The Virginia man, who worked for a company owned by American Media, is taking antibiotics as a precaution. The first man exposed to anthrax -- Bob Stevens, who also worked for American Media -- died Friday (Slevin/Blum, Washington Post, 10/10). Employees of the Boca Raton, Fla.-based American Media have been tested for anthrax, but results will not be available for "several days," CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan said (Canedy/Altman, New York Times, 10/10). Although no new instances of anthrax have been found, Koplan said that the "possibility of additional cases could not be ruled out," the Post reports. He added, "There are other people in that workplace who have symptoms of one kind or another" (Slevin/Blum, Washington Post, 10/10). Symptoms of inhalation anthrax, which Stevens had, include fever, muscle aches and fatigue, which later give way to internal bleeding and coma (American Health Line, 10/9). Anthrax can occur naturally in soil or animals, but also has been developed as a biological weapon by at least 17 nations. A few labs in the United States manufacture the bacteria "under highly restrictive conditions" (Johnson et al., USA Today, 10/10).
Federal investigators still have not determined the source of anthrax in the Florida cases, but said they "have no reason to believe that there was a natural cause of" those exposures, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 10/10). Officials have cleared an American Media intern whom investigators suspected because he sent co-workers a suspicious "cryptic farewell email" (Cloud et al., Wall Street Journal, 10/10). There is no evidence linking the exposures to "a criminal or terrorist act," officials added (New York Times, 10/10). A "senior FBI official" said that he would "be very surprised" if the incidents were linked to terrorism because anthrax is "very hard to weaponize." Investigators have examined the clothing and possessions of the hijackers thought to be behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but found no traces of anthrax (Wall Street Journal, 10/10). In addition, investigators have searched known places where the alleged hijackers stayed, including apartments within a few miles of the American Media offices, but found no anthrax. Also, no anthrax was found during a "sweep" of Stevens' home, two supermarkets nearby and his "customary fishing and bicycling spots," the Post reports. The American Media building remains sealed, and investigators continue to examine how the anthrax entered the building. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said yesterday that investigators are "confident" the anthrax was confined to the building (Slevin/Blum, Washington Post, 10/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.