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CDC: 32,000 on Anthrax Antibiotics

November 8, 2001

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ATLANTA (AP) _ About 32,000 people have taken antibiotics in the past month as a precaution for possible exposure to anthrax spores, federal health officials said Thursday. Of that number, a 60-day regimen of the drugs has been recommended for about 5,000.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a detailed summary of the nation’s response to anthrax outbreaks in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Washington.

The numbers provide the most accurate picture to date of efforts to canvass and protect groups of people possibly exposed to anthrax spores.

The government has confirmed 17 cases of anthrax since the outbreaks began a month ago in Florida. Four of those patients have died from the more dangerous, inhaled form of the disease.

For most of the 32,000 people on antibiotics, the drugs were prescribed only until it could determined if they were exposed to dangerous levels of anthrax, such as while testing of their buildings was being done.

People found to be exposed have been told to take antibiotics for 60 days.

Cipro and doxycycline are the primary antibiotics recommended by the government as a precaution after possible exposure.

Federal health officials have cautioned against overprescribing antibiotics, both because of side effects and because of the risk that bacteria will become resistant to the drugs.

In a separate report, the CDC said none of the people who took antibiotics in the first days after anthrax was found in Florida reported major side effects.

More than 1,100 employees of American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., were given antibiotics as a precaution last month, health officials said.

A government survey of 490 of those people found only six who sought medical attention for possible side effects. About 20 percent reported minor symptoms, including itching and swelling. None of those problems could be definitively linked to the antibiotics, the CDC said.

One man who worked at American Media died of inhalation anthrax last month. Another person who contracted inhalation anthrax has been released from the hospital.

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On the Net:

CDC bioterrorism site: http://www.bt.cdc.gov

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