Published Oct 6, 2001
OCTOBER 05, 19:56 EDT
Fla. Man Dies From Anthrax
By AMANDA RIDDLE
Associated Press Writer
Palm Beach County officials comment
AP/Steve Mitchell [19K]
LANTANA, Fla. (AP)-A 63-year-old Florida man died of the inhaled form of anthrax Friday in the first such death in the United States in 25 years. The case raised fears of a biological attack, but health officials said there is no evidence he was the victim of terrorism.
Bob Stevens, a photo editor at the supermarket tabloid The Sun, died at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis after antibiotics failed to help. He suffered kidney failure and cardiac arrest.
``It was not unexpected,'' said Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious-disease specialist.
Federal and state health investigators emphasized that the disease is not contagious and no other cases have been reported. But they are trying to reconstruct Stevens' movements and track down the source of the disease. The FBI is involved, as is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anthrax has been developed by some countries as a possible biological weapon, and the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 have put many people on edge about the threat. Anthrax can also be contracted naturally, often from farm animals or soil.
Stevens was described as an avid outdoorsman. Dr. Steven Wiersma, a state epidemiologist, said officials believe he contracted anthrax naturally.
FBI, CDC and state investigators searched Stevens' workplace and sealed off his house in Lantana for a two-hour search. When they left, they removed the yellow crime-scene tape.
Health official at victim's home
AP/Steve Mitchell [24K]
Investigators took a number of items from the home, including pesticide sprays and fertilizer bottles, to see if they were contaminated, Wiersma said.
Some in Lantana have been concerned because Mohamed Atta, believed to be one of the hijackers who destroyed the World Trade Center, had rented planes at a flight school at Palm Beach County Park Airport, according to the school's owner. Stevens' home is within a mile of the airport.
Also, Atta and other Middle Eastern men are believed to have visited an airfield in Belle Glade, about 40 miles from Lantana, and asked a lot of questions about crop-dusters. In addition, some of the suspected hijackers lived at an apartment complex in Boynton Beach, about 10 miles from Lantana.
``I am nervous-what if it's in my soil? I have a dog and I have kids,'' said Cathy Saulter, 39, who lives across the street from the Stevens.
North Carolina aspect discussed
AP/Bob Jordan [15K]
The anthrax bacterium causes pneumonia. There is a vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease, but it is available only to the military.
The most recent previous U.S. case of anthrax was earlier this year in Texas. But that was the more common skin form, not the inhaled type of anthrax, an especially lethal and rare form in which the disease settles in the lungs.
Only 18 inhalation cases in the United States were documented in the 20th century, the most recent in 1976 in California. That case, too, was deadly, and a state health spokeswoman said the victim worked as a professional weaver using imported woolen yarns. The last anthrax death in Florida occurred in 1974.
``There's no need for people to fear they are at risk,'' CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan said Thursday. But he said a release of the germ by terrorists is on the list of possibilities under investigation.
U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson
Eric Croddy, a bioterrorism expert at California's Monterey Institute, said that everything so far leads him to believe that the government is right, that Stevens caught the disease naturally and that it is an isolated case.
``He's an unfortunate, unlucky fellow,'' Croddy said.
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Thanks for posting that about the poor victim of Anthrax in Florida.
(My prayers to his family) Our family was just discussing that over dinner tonight. We don't know what to think of it but it's certainly something to think about and to watch for.
I think we're all nervous... What's next? God be with us!
Are they (CDC) suggesting that we should belive that an endospore of this rare microbe blew off a pile of dung somewhere and this poor fellows nostril just happend to be in the way?
How can they state that it isn't contagiouse if the organism can be aerosolized and projected by a cough?
This should really be setting off internal alarm bells at the CDC and for the Lantana residents. Just a coincidence?
Check out this article I found on CNN:
By Daniel Q. Haney
AP Medical Editor
(AP) -- Bioterrorists? Germ attacks? If the threat is real, why not roll up our sleeves and get vaccinated?
Vaccine experts say the question has come up often since September 11, and though certainly a reasonable one, many doubt population-wide shots will be a practical defense anytime soon against the deliberate release of deadly microbes.
The possible health hazards of mass vaccination could easily outweigh the benefits, they say, especially considering that no one really knows the likelihood of such a catastrophe. But beyond that are significant problems: No vaccines are available for civilian use except smallpox shots, which are in extremely short supply until at least next year; and the government's sole supplier of anthrax vaccine has failed to meet federal drug standards and isn't currently producing the vaccine.
But even if immunizing the entire U.S. population against terrorist bugs is unlikely, creating new and better vaccines is widely viewed as a key part of defense against bioterrorism.
For some potential terrorist weapons, such as smallpox and Ebola virus, there are no treatments at all. Anthrax and other bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, but in the case of anthrax, at least, treatment must begin rapidly. On Friday, a Florida man died of anthrax three days after being hospitalized, despite treatment with antibiotics. So vaccines that prevent infection entirely could be far more effective in the face of a large outbreak.
Even before the attacks on New York and Washington, developing vaccines against the A-list of bioterrorist weapons was high on the research agenda at the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department.
In the works are vaccines against virtually every potential bioterrorist germ. Some might be given ahead of time to soldiers, hospital workers and police, but most would probably be held for distribution after an attack to stop further spread.
Scientists are seeking vaccines that could be produced rapidly and, once given, build up protection much more quickly than the standard shots now available.
Researchers who consult with government agencies speak of a new urgency there. "We suddenly realize, my God, we've got to deal with this," says Dr. Myron Levine, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said last week the government hopes to have 40 million fresh doses of smallpox vaccine by next summer, well ahead of the original deadline of 2004. Acambis, a British firm, will speed up its 20-year, $343 million program to replenish the U.S. supply. About 15 million doses of the old vaccine remain from the 1970s.
Smallpox was eradicated in 1977, and routine vaccinations ceased in 1980. However, the Russians produced tons of smallpox for their bioweapons program in the 1980s, and some experts fear some of it may have escaped, perhaps to other countries that make biological weapons.
About half of Americans alive today were vaccinated against smallpox, but the protection wears off. Dr. D.A. Henderson, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, estimates that only 10 percent to 20 percent of them still have immunity against smallpox.
Acambis' new vaccine will be grown in cell cultures and will be much purer than the original version, derived from the pus of infected cows. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to store it at guarded warehouses around the country, to be shipped off quickly after an attack to keep the highly contagious and untreatable virus from spreading.
The plan: Quarantine areas where smallpox is seen, then vaccinate everyone who lives around them. Nine million doses of vaccine would be needed to contain an outbreak that begins with just 100 infected people.
The logistics are daunting, especially if people are infected in several cities. In 1947, it took a week to vaccinate 6 million people in New York City in response to an outbreak of eight cases.
So why not inoculate everyone as soon as a vaccine is available?
"It has to be re-examined. I am certainly beginning to think that may be a reasonable approach," says Dr. Ronald Atlas of the University of Louisville, president-elect of the American Society for Microbiology.
However, many specialists are dubious, including Henderson, who headed the global smallpox eradication campaign. Two years ago, he led a committee of government and academic specialists who rejected the idea, and that conclusion still stands.
"The answer is definitely no," says Henderson.
The main reason is the vaccine's safety. When smallpox was a true health hazard, those risks were small in comparison. But the equation changes when the threat cannot be measured. Experts contend that even a few hundred deaths or serious complications that are vaccine-related would be considered unacceptable.
About 3 in every 1 million people vaccinated would get encephalitis that may lead to death or permanent neurological damage, experts estimate. Another 250 would get a smallpox-like rash caused by vaccinia, the usually harmless virus used for the vaccine. The rash could be fatal if not treated.
People with weakened immune systems -- cancer and transplant patients, those taking high-dose steroids and people with AIDS -- could be especially susceptible. Even if left unvaccinated, they might catch vaccinia from those who are vaccinated.
Recently, British researchers announced they had deciphered the genetic blueprint of plague bacteria. The discovery could offer new hints for vaccine design. The current vaccine protects against the bubonic form of plague but not the inhaled variety, which is feared as a terrorist weapon.
Plague and other bacterial hazards, such as anthrax, can be treated with antibiotics. But medicines often must start soon after exposure, even before symptoms start, to be effective. Since there probably would be no warning of a germ attack and early symptoms could be mistaken for the flu, treatment might start too late for many. Nevertheless, some people have stocked up on prescription antibiotics, such as Cipro and doxycycline.
The current anthrax vaccine is reserved for the military, and experts seem unanimous that it is too cumbersome for civilian use. It requires six shots over 18 months, then yearly boosters. Add to that the fact that the vaccine's only U.S. maker, Bioport Corp., has not produced a vaccine since 1998 because of failing to meet Food and Drug Administration standards, the New York Times reported.
Several labs are doing government-financed research to find a better anthrax vaccine, which would eliminate the need for speedy antibiotics. One of them, Vaxin in Birmingham, Alabama, is working on a genetically engineered version that could be given with a skin patch.
While it might be aimed initially at soldiers or health workers, "vaccinating the entire population is not all that farfetched," says Kent Van Kampen, the company's president. But that vaccine is not expected to be available for three to five years.
If it or another new anthrax vaccine works out, the thinking about large-scale vaccination could change.
"If we had a great vaccine in enough quantity with no side effects and we felt the threat was large and imminent, that would be a reasonable question for public health discussion," said Johns Hopkins' Dr. Luciana Borio. "We do not have that."
Medical Editor Daniel Q. Haney is a special correspondent for The Associated Press.
Vaccinations Against Bioterrorist Attacks?
The UK news item on this ( He was born here ) said he was an "Outdoorsman," hiking & stuff, and had probably drunk water from a stream polluted by cattle. Sounds plausible
Some of us expected great things from our "New " leader, but his pitch for World Statesman is a bit much. Also he's taken his politics a long way rightward, farther than even Maggie Thatcher!
Did you know that we have a 24 hour police guard on the entrance to where she lives?...........It's to stop her getting out again!
Anyway, lets hope the pest control works, we had all better remember that "The first casualty in war is truth1"
I heard that the CDC confirmed that he had the form of Anthrax that was contracted through inhalation. So of course the "drinking from a lake" theory can't hold true. :)
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