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Anthrax Cases Creating Unease in US State of Florida - 2001-10-14

In Florida, a newspaper company stricken by an outbreak of anthrax exposure is reporting five more employees have tested positive for the potentially lethal bacterium.

The new cases raise the total number of people known to have been exposed to anthrax to eight.

Executives from the newspaper say they were notified of the positive test results by officials from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease control. The names of those affected have not been released.

To date, only one person exposed to anthrax in Florida has died. A photo editor of the newspaper fell ill nearly two weeks ago and succumbed to anthrax within days of being admitted to a hospital. It was the first anthrax fatality recorded in the United States in 25 years.

All newspaper employees and support staff have been tested for exposure to the bacterium and given antibiotics.

News of the additional anthrax exposures comes one day after federal officials expressed confidence that the outbreak had been contained. The FBI is treating the case as a criminal matter, although they stress there is no evidence that it is linked to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Even so, the case is generating increasing unease in south Florida and across the country. Nationwide, sales of gas masks have soared, as has demand for antibiotics.