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October 29, 2001/8:00 PM, ET
CDC Update for Ongoing Anthrax Investigations
CDC confirmed cases of anthrax
Based on a rigorous case definition, CDC is reporting 15 confirmed cases of anthrax: 2 in Florida, 3 in New York City, 5 in New Jersey, and 5 in Washington, D.C. (in collaboration with MD and VA). CDC is also reporting 4 suspect cases: 3 in New York City and 1 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.
New Jersey case confirmation
A confirmed case of cutaneous anthrax has been identified in a New Jersey resident whose occupation is not directly linked to the mail delivery system. The patient was discharged from the hospital yesterday, is on antibiotic treatment, and is doing well.
This case is under active and intense investigation by public health and law enforcement officials working with the postal service. The investigation will examine a range of possibilities including possible links between this case and the Hamilton mail facility. Steps being taken immediately include:
While it is not possible to eliminate the risk of anthrax, the risk to the general public is low and can be further reduced by being alert for suspicious packages and by handwashing after opening the mail. Heightened public health surveillance continues and has been intensified so that anthrax can be promptly recognized and treated.
While the risk is considered to be very low to individuals from possible contamination in the mail, people should continue to be alert for suspicious mail.
Mail might be considered suspicious if it is:
Dos and Don’ts for suspicious letters:
Cutaneous anthrax is a boil-like skin lesion that eventually forms an ulcer with a black center or crust (similar in appearance to some spider bites).
The cutaneous form of anthrax responds well to antibiotics if treatment is started soon after symptoms appear, such as in this case.
Individuals should, especially in areas that have been directly affected, review and be familiar with advice provided to all postal patrons by the US Postal Service and follow that advice.
This page last reviewed October 29, 2001