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HP8 Emerging Agents, Detection, and Emergency Response
(621) Critical Analysis of the State and Federal Response to the 2001 Anthrax Letters.
Albers, Eric1, Presley, Steven, 1 The Institute of Environmental and Human Health - Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA
ABSTRACT- On September 18th, 2001 the first in a series of letters containing a weaponized strain of Bacillus anthracis was mailed from Trenton, New Jersey to various media outlets and members of the U.S. Congress. In the following months 22 people were diagnosed with anthrax, including 11 inhalational cases resulting in 5 deaths. A twelfth cutaneous case developed in a laboratory worker in March 2002, brought the casualty total to 23. Approximately 32,000 people took antibiotic prophylaxis, facilities clean-up costs were measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the estimated economic impact was in the billions overall. Miscommunications and contradictory statements led to doubt and mistrust in government and health officials, and eventually led to several lawsuits. A reliance on old data resulted in initially slow responses to what were perceived as low exposure scenarios; effective use of the mail system as a delivery device, cross-contamination of mail, and aerosolization of anthrax spores by postal machinery. Upon first presentation to a physician only 27% of inhalational anthrax cases were correctly diagnosed, presumptive or otherwise, underscoring a lack of training of medical professionals. Development of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) and National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS) following the 1998 anthrax hoaxes were essential to federal and state response. Successful efforts in the large-scale distribution of anti-microbial prophylaxis through the NPS, likely saved numerous lives. Additionally state and federal labs were taxed with thousands of environmental and clinical samples requiring rapid reevaluation and modification of procedures, which previously would have been impossible.
Key words: response, anthrax, letters, Congress
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