‘Isolated’ Anthrax Case Diagnosed in Florida
A 63-year-old Florida man was diagnosed yesterday with a pulmonary form of anthrax, which could be used as a biological weapon, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. However, health officials say the case appears to be "isolated" and shows no signs of terrorism. The diagnosis, which was confirmed by the Florida Health Department, "sound[ed] the alarm" at the CDC, which along with the FBI and Federal Emergency Management Agency, is investigating how the man contracted the disease. "Within hours" of the diagnosis, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson "assured the nation" that the case did not appear to be terrorist-related (Singer/McVicar, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/5). CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan said, "This is an isolated case of one individual who is, unfortunately, very ill." Anthrax is a bacterial disease of livestock. It is "almost never" transmitted from person to person, but is contracted either through a break in the skin, by eating meat from infected cows or by inhaling spores formed by the bacteria (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/5). Doctors believe the man inhaled the anthrax, but are unsure how or when he contracted the disease (Saunders/Filaroski Florida Times-Union, 10/4). In its inhaled from, the disease is lethal 90% of the time if not treated immediately, because antibiotics are usually ineffective once symptoms develop (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/5). The last diagnosis of inhaled anthrax was in 1976 (Florida Times-Union, 10/5). Koplan added, "People absolutely should not panic. There are no grounds for anyone to buy, stockpile or use antibiotics. Vaccination is not necessary" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/5).