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Anthrax: The National Situation

December, 2001

Federal officials continue to investigate the deaths of two elderly women from inhalation anthrax in New York City and Oxford, Connecticut.   As of November 28, a total of 23 cases of anthrax have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control; 11 were confirmed as inhalational anthrax, and 12 (seven confirmed and five suspected) were cutaneous anthrax.  The source of the anthrax exposure remains unknown in these two most recent cases, although attention has turned to an anthrax tainted postal facility in Wallingford, Connecticut.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently decontaminated U.S. Senate office facilities.  The EPA pumped chlorine dioxide gas into the offices for 20 hours to kill any anthrax spores that may be present.  The offices were then filled with sodium bisulfite gas for 6 hours to neutralize the chlorine dioxide gas.  This method of decontamination remains unproven and tests are ongoing to determine its effectiveness.

According to the CDC, doxycycline is the "drug of choice" for treating both suspected and confirmed anthrax exposures because it causes fewer side effects than Cipro.  Many people that were initially prescribed Cipro have been switched to doxycycline for the remaining days of antibiotic treatment.

Public health officials have notified doctors and hospitals to remain alert to possible new cases of anthrax.

Link to CDC statements related to the Anthrax outbreaks.

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