be the first cold and flu season you actually feel glad you've
got a runny nose. It's generally not a symptom of the inhaled
form of anthrax. What are the symptoms? What are the different
types? What else do you need to know about potential biological
or chemical attacks?
are three types:
Occurs when the anthrax bacterium enters the skin through
a cut or abrasion. The infection first looks like a bump,
but then becomes blister-like, with a black dot in the middle.
The bump is usually painless, but people often feel feverish,
tired or have swollen glands. This form is highly curable
when treated with antibiotics.
Inhalational: Caused when tiny anthrax spores are breathed
into the lungs and go into the middle of the chest. There,
they produce a toxin that attacks tissue and causes the
symptoms of the illness: mild fever, muscle aches and fatigue.
The symptoms can quickly progress to respiratory failure,
shock and death.
are the only known treatment for anthrax. Chances for survival
are extremely high if treatment begins before the anthrax
exposure causes symptoms. Healthcare professionals initially
assumed that inhalational anthrax was nearly always fatal
once symptoms appeared, but recent cases of the disease
have proven otherwise. Some people who've had symptoms have
taken antibiotics and recovered.
all of the recent cutaneous and inhalational anthrax cases
occurred when someone opened mail containing anthrax spores
or was in the vicinity of someone who did. There is one
exception. A woman in New York, who died of inhalational
anthrax, has mystified professionals. They haven't been
able to trace the source of her infection.
Usually occurs when someone eats meat that has been contaminated
with the anthrax bacterium. This has been extremely rare
in the U.S., and at this point, no cases have been discovered
recently. Symptoms include fever and abdominal distress,
including nausea, vomiting, vomiting blood and bloody diarrhea.
anthrax wasn't on healthcare providers' "radar screens." Now,
organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
the New York City Department of Health and the Infectious
Disease Society of America are sending information out to
medical professionals with a fair amount of frequency. As
is almost always the case when an unfamiliar disease appears,
some physicians did not recognize that their patients were
sick with anthrax. That's unlikely to happen now.
to point out that the F.B.I. still does not know who is responsible
for spreading the anthrax spores that caused the recent outbreaks
of the illness.
information about anthrax, visit the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/DocumentsApp/faqanthrax.asp)
truth is that anthrax may not be the only disease we should
be concerned about. Government officials are uneasy about
the potential for an outbreak of other conditions such as
plague, yellow fever, botulinim, Q fever and smallpox.
seems to have caused particular concern. It's a virus that's
known to exist in laboratories in the U.S. and Russia, but
it's uncertain whether other organizations possess it, and
if they do, whether they intend to try to contaminate targeted
stopped smallpox vaccinations in 1972, because the disease
had been wiped out. For those who did get the vaccination,
there is likely decreased protection because the vaccine may
have worn off.
of smallpox include:
that are deep in the skin (as apposed to the chickenpox
lesions, for example, which are on the surface)
anthrax, smallpox is contagious. It also has a high death
rate. There is a smallpox vaccine, but it has a high rate
of side effects, including possible death in a small amount
of people. It's currently not recommended that the general
public get smallpox vaccinations, and this isn't possible
right now anyway, because there isn't enough vaccine to inoculate
of a smallpox outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control has
trained teams of experts who would rush to contain and treat
the illness. These individuals have been vaccinated.
for Uncertain Times
predict whether there will be more biological attacks, or
if there are, where they will take place or even what they
will be. But we do have a little advice:
saturate yourself with television
It's understandable that the media will give us constant
information any time there's an outbreak of an illness that
appears to have been deliberately caused, but we don't have
to let the news consume us. The wave of anthrax news has
calmed down, but it's realistic to expect similar coverage
if another illness is introduced. Learn what you need to
and turn off the TV.
take medications without the advice of your doctor
It's never a good idea to take medications unless you
really need them. When large amounts of people take a specific
antibiotic, for example, resistance to the drug increases,
and eventually the drug loses its effectiveness.
your interests alive
Instead of focusing on things that scare you, focus on things
you love. You can't control what's going on in the world,
but you can still enjoy life. During your get-togethers
this holiday season, appreciate your time with friends and
family. Pursue your interests with all the passion you can
muster. Take up a new hobby if you've lost interest in the
treatment for anxiety, panic or depression if you need it
Mental health counselors have been busier than usual lately.
It's normal and helpful to seek treatment if things are
bothering you to the point where you have trouble going
about your daily routine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The New York Times, 3, 6 November 2001.