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October 26, 2001/12:00 PM, ET
Contact: CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Press Release

CDC Update: Current case count and flu shots and anthrax disease

CDC confirmed cases of anthrax

Based on a rigorous case definition, CDC is reporting 12 confirmed cases of anthrax: 2 in Florida, 3 in New York City, 2 in New Jersey, and 5 in Washington, D.C. (in collaboration with MD and VA). CDC is also reporting 5 suspect cases: 2 in New York City and 3 in New Jersey.

CDC defines a confirmed case of anthrax as 1) a clinically compatible case of cutaneous, inhalational, or gastrointestinal illness that is laboratory confirmed by isolation of B. anthracis from an affected tissue or site or 2) other laboratory evidence of B. anthracis infection based on at least two supportive laboratory tests.

Flu shots and anthrax disease

Q: Does CDC recommend getting an influenza immunization (flu shot) to reduce the number of flu-like illnesses that may raise concerns about possible anthrax-related illness?

A: No. CDC does not recommend that influenza vaccination be considered as a way to avoid confusing influenza disease with suspected anthrax illness. Influenza vaccine is the primary means to prevent influenza and its severe complications, including pneumonia, hospitalization and death. Complications most often occur among persons >65 years and among persons <65 years who have certain medical conditions.

Many other infectious agents (including anthrax) can cause illnesses that begin with flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches, and headaches). Most flu-like illnesses are not caused by influenza (or anthrax). The flu shot can prevent 70-90%, but not all, influenza infections. The vaccine does not prevent flu-like illness caused by agents other than influenza.

Influenza vaccine should be targeted toward groups that are at increased risk of complications and toward health care workers. CDC recommends that these groups be prioritized for vaccine available in October and that efforts to vaccinate these groups continue throughout the influenza season. Lower influenza vaccine coverage of high risk persons could lead to an increase in influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths. Receipt of influenza vaccine in November and later is encouraged for those who live with high-risk persons, for healthy people aged 50-64 years, and for others who wish to reduce their chances of getting influenza.

For the latest update on CDC activities and on-going anthrax investigations visit or

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This page last reviewed October 26, 2001

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