A case of the potentially deadly disease anthrax has been diagnosed in the southeastern state of Florida. Federal and state health officials say the case appears to be isolated and in no way related to bio-terrorism.
Speaking at the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced that a 63-year-old man has been diagnosed with anthrax in Palm Beach County, north of Miami. He went to the hospital on the first of October. "And he is still in the hospital," he said. "They did a test. It went up through the [Florida] state laboratory, the state health department, which contacted [federal officials]. They confirmed anthrax, and we re-confirmed it."
Anthrax is caused by a spore-forming bacterium that is sometimes carried by sheep and other livestock. Humans can contract the disease by inhaling the spores, which release toxins in the lungs. Anthrax is treated with antibiotics.
Secretary Thompson described the infected man as a woodsman who had recently traveled to North Carolina, and spent a great deal of time outdoors, even drinking water from a stream. Mr. Thompson stressed there is no cause for panic. "This is an isolated case, and it is not contagious," he said. "There is no evidence of terrorism. And there are no other indications that anybody else has anthrax."
Health officials across the United States have been on a heightened state of alert since the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Investigations of the attacks have revealed clues that terrorists may have pursued means of spreading chemical or biological agents, possibly utilizing crop dusting planes.