While news about anthrax is receiving wide media coverage, there are some important points we want to stress to help general understanding about this biological agent.
First, anthrax is treatable. Whereas, heightened awareness is good and always recommended, there is much less cause for the alarm and anxiety than some media sources have presented. Even while reports continue to expand on the existing cases, in fact only a small number of people actually have been affected by anthrax.
While chances are remote that you will personally come into contact with anthrax through handling suspicious letters or packages, consider these useful tips provided by the FBI:
- Handle with care. Meaning, don't bump or shake the item.
- Isolate the object and look for obvious indicators of possible contamination.
- Don't open the item. Likewise, don't smell it or taste it.
- Treat the item as suspicious and call 911.
Visit the Hunterdon County Health Department Fact Sheet on Anthrax for additional information.
Along with media reports about anthrax incidences, a great deal of information is now circulating about screening processes used to determine which people are infected. Clearly, there is widespread confusion regarding the use of nasal swabs as an indicator that a person now has anthrax. In fact, nasal swabs are NOT considered an appropriate screening test for anthrax. Swabs are done only to aid the epidemiologists in their investigation about how widely the anthrax spores may have traveled.
Another frequently asked question deals with the use of antibiotics. For anthrax cases, antibiotic therapy generally is recommended only for persons who - through qualified environmental testing - are determined to be positively infected.
For patients with symptoms, doctors can use standard diagnostic procedures to rule out anthrax. Such procedures include X-rays and blood cultures.
In short, now is a time for us, as individuals and as a public, to be more aware. But not a time for panic. Even in the highly publicized cases about anthrax attacks in Rockefeller Center on September 18 and 25, only those individuals present on the 3rd and 7th floor and in the mailroom were considered to be "exposed" and in need of antibiotic therapy.
The Hunterdon County Department of Health and other county agencies are on full alert, aggressively making plans and taking actions to ensure the highest, most accessible levels of protection for our population.
For additional information, please call the Health Department at 908-788-1351 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit one of the Web Site's listed below: