State and local health officials have closed the American Media Inc. building where a 63-year-old Florida man who died of anthrax worked, after a sample from the building and from another employee showed the presence of the bacterium that causes anthrax. The second man, Ernesto Blanca, who has tested positive for the anthrax bacteria, may never develop symptoms of full-blown anthrax, because it was caught in time and he is being given antibiotics. Anthrax spores were found in his nasal passages and on his computer keyboard.
According to press reports, the Centers for Disease Control has said that the spores found are natural and not weaponized anthrax, and it has not yet been determined if their presence is the result of a terror attack. As of 5PM Eastern Time, October 8, the CDC was reporting that it had made no determination as yet. Florida health authorities said that they have no idea what type of anthrax is involved. To read the CDC's October 4 press release, click here.
The incident occurred in the offices of the Sun supermarket tabloid in Boca Raton. The Sun is owned by 1922,269447,00.html,American Media.
Bob Stevens, who died from the disease Friday, lived about a mile from an air strip where suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta rented planes.
Several of the hijackers also had visited and asked questions at a crop-dusting business about 40 miles from Stevens' home.
Authorities evacuated employees who were working at the building on Sunday evening. Robert Stevens, who was a photographer for a newspaper with offices in that building, died Friday, October 5, of inhalation anthrax. He had checked into the JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control is investigating how the two men contracted the disease. Environmental samples, including air samples, that have been taken from inside the building show the presence of Bacillis anthracis. The results from several other samples taken will not be available for several days, the CDC statement said, in contrast to media reports.
Public health officials are contacting personnel who have worked or visited the building since August 1 to give them preventative antibiotics. If antibiotics are given before the symptoms of anthrax appear, they can prevent the disease.
Health officials stress that the disease is not contagious from one person to another.
Stevens became ill after a recent trip to North Carolina, but a Florida state epidemiologist says he does not believe Stevens contracted the disease during his trip because the incubation period for anthrax is between six and 45 days, a period which would not have included his trip.
Anthrax most commonly occurs in cattle, sheep, goats, and other herbivores and the spores are usually found in the soil. Humans can become infected when they are exposed to infected animals or tissue from such animals. They can inhale anthrax if the spores become airborne, either accidentally or intentionally. So far, there is no explanation for their presence in a Florida office building.
Opinion: Unless Mr. Stevens somehow got into a naturally occuring deposit of anthrax and communicated it around his building, this is a biological attack. It is to be hoped that health authorities act quickly and effectively to determine just what happened here. One means that terrorists might use to spread a biological or chemical weapon would be to enter buildings and communicate it to work surfaces. The choice of the offices of a company like American Media, which publishes sensational supermarket tabloids, may involve an attempt to spread fear indirectly via the shrill stories it might be hoped would appear in them.
It is imperative that investigators look for possible cases of anthrax in areas known to have been visited by the hijackers before they took their final flights. Their movements could be explained by the fact that they were spreading the disease spores.
For the Miami Herald Story, click here.
Centers for Disease Control Anthrax Information, click here.
For Whitley Strieber's interview with Dr. Paul Riga, click here.
To learn about Sandia Labs Anthrax Decontamination Foam, click here. (This is one of the tools available in our anti-bioterrorism arsenal.)
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