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Health officer urges residents not to worry about anthrax

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Oct. 13, 2001
The state public health officer for East Central Mississippi said Friday that area residents have better things to worry about than anthrax.
The district includes Clarke, Jasper, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Smith counties.
Morrison said her office in Lauderdale County has received many telephone calls about anthrax since cases were reported in Florida and New York.
Should cases of anthrax be identified in this area, Morrison said emergency officials and the medical community are ready.
With an interstate and a railroad running through Meridian, Morrison said emergency plans for a serious biological problem in Lauderdale County are similar to plans that were already in place in the event of an accident involving toxic waste.
Anthrax infection is treated with antibiotics, often ciprofloxacin, also referred to as cipro, which is effective against a broad range of bacteria. Morrison said the drug is commonly used and is readily available in this area.
Anthrax facts
Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused mainly by a spore-forming bacterium, most commonly found in warm-blooded animals.
Infection can occur in three forms: Cutaneous, through the skin; inhalation; and gastrointestinal.
Anthrax spores can be produced in a dry form and ground into particles to be used for biological warfare. When inhaled, the particles can cause respiratory failure.
Because anthrax is considered a potential agent for biological warfare, the U.S. Department of Defense systematically vaccinates all U.S. military personnel.
Symptoms of anthrax infection usually appear within seven days.
When infected through a cut or abrasion, the signs of infection begin as a raised, itchy bump that resembles an insect bite. Within a couple of days, it will develop into a painless ulcer. Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell.
Initial symptoms from inhaling the spores may resemble a cold or flu, usually with fever. After several days, the symptoms may progress to breathing problems and shock.
Intestinal anthrax can occur from eating contaminated meat. It is characterized by acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Symptoms can include vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and severe diarrhea.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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