An NBC Nightly News employee at NBC's 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York City has tested positive for the cutaneous form of anthrax. The exposure is believed to have resulted from handling mail that was received at NBC on September 25. The victim is expected to recover fully.
The suspicious envelope arrived at NBC two and a half weeks ago, and contained a white powder. The powder tested negative for anthrax. Envelopes containing powder that has been testing negative for anthrax have been recieved in many different locations in the US recently. Why a suspicious substance would test negative for the presence of anthrax, and a person who handled it would then become infected is not known.
Persons who find envelopes containing powder should not move the envelopes after noticing the powder, and should report the finding to their local 911 operator immediately.
The case was discovered when a hospital that had seen an unusual increase in flu complaints notified health officials. The fact that this case was found early in its progress is an example of the health-care system working effectively. There was no indication that the flu victims had pulmonary anthrax.
Cutaneous anthrax occurs when spores of the bacterium lodge in a cut or wound. It causes a painless ulcer that eventually spreads and, if untreated, can eventually become fatal. Antibiotic treatment causes full recovery if the infection is diagnosed before it has spread dramatically. The ulcer has a characteristic appearance: a black necrotized area in the center.
The FBI sees no connection between the 911 attacks and the appearance of anthrax. It is handling the anthrax situation as a separate criminal investigation.
We have provided an illustration of a cutaneous anthrax lesion for those wishing to see what the infection looks like. If you feel that you might find this disturbing, do not click on this link. If you wish to see how this appears, click here.
Opinion: It seems certain now that somebody is attempting to spread anthrax in our country via the mails. As yet, there is no certainty who is doing it. Anthrax spores are long-lived and for many years were relatively easy for scientists to obtain and transfer. Some older anthrax strains are present in storage facilities in many different nations.
Insight: Anthrax can be controlled by many different antibiotics. Pulmonary anthrax must be caught early, and at this point anybody developing flu-like symptoms should consult their doctor, and people who handle mail or other publicly accessible materials should be tested for anthrax if they have such symptoms.
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