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Postal Workers, MDs Criticize CDC

December 14, 2001

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ATLANTA (AP) _ Postal workers and doctors in states handling anthrax cases leveled criticism Thursday at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the CDC has been reporting conflicting information _ and sometimes none at all.

They told CDC anthrax experts the federal agency should have had a single, authoritative person reporting to the country regularly to provide accurate information on new cases and to ease public worry.

``There were many people in the public who were quite confused,″ said Dr. John Agwunobi, secretary of the Florida health department.

CDC officials have said they were initially constrained by federal emergency laws and by the early criminal investigation.

``We were not prepared for the layers of collaboration that would be required in this,″ the CDC’s Dr. Julie Gerberding said Thursday. ``We recognize we have a long way to go.″

Most officials at the meeting agreed the CDC has done a mostly heroic job the past 10 weeks, considering it was handling a bioterrorism attack and a disease that had not been detected in humans in 25 years.

But they said the agency could have avoided confusion by steering away from terms like ``preliminary″ and ``presumptive,″ which clouded understanding of exactly how many anthrax cases there were and which tests were definitive.

``What constitutes a trace? What’s a significant amount?″ said Gary Stone, manager of the post office’s Stamp Fulfillment Services. ``There was some confusion on our employees’ part.″

The Postal Service often had trouble getting information from the CDC, learning about new developments first from the media, said Deborah Willhite, a postal service senior vice president.

To date, the CDC has confirmed 18 cases of anthrax, five of them fatal.


On the Net:

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov

U.S. Postal Service: http://www.usps.gov

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