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President Bush Tells Americans to Guard Against Anthrax - 2001-11-03

President Bush is telling Americans to be careful when they are opening their mail because of the possible threat of more outbreaks of anthrax. Four people have died from the disease after the bacteria was sent through the U.S. Mail.

With more than 30 billion pieces of mail delivered since the September 11 attacks, President Bush says the odds of any one piece being contaminated with anthrax are "very low." Still, he is asking Americans to take "appropriate precautions" before opening their mail and tell their doctors if they believe they have been exposed to anthrax.

In his weekly radio address, the president said the government is doing everything it can to find out who is spreading this deadly bacteria. "We do not yet know who sent the anthrax - whether it was the same terrorists who committed the attacks on September the 11, or whether it was the - other international or domestic terrorists. We do know that anyone who would try to infect other people with anthrax is guilty of an act of terror. We will solve these crimes, and we will punish those responsible," he said.

With the nation on an indefinite state of alert, Mr. Bush asked Americans to contact law enforcement officials if they see anything suspicious. The U.S. Postal Service and the FBI have offered a reward of up to one million dollars for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those spreading anthrax.

The president warned that anthrax hoaxes and false alarms are serious criminal offenses. At least 20 people have been arrested for anthrax hoaxes and the president says officials will pursue anyone who tries to frighten people in this "cruel way."

Mr. Bush said the government is learning more about anthrax every day and is taking steps to protect both the mail and the people who work around it. "Public health officials have acted quickly to distribute antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to anthrax. When anthrax exposure is caught early, preventative treatment is effective. Anthrax can be treated with many antibiotics, and several pharmaceutical companies have offered medicine at reduced prices," he said. "The government is swiftly testing post offices and other sites for anthrax spores, and is closing them where potential threats to health are detected. We are working to protect people based on the best information available," he said.

The president said he is proud of what he called America's "calm and reasoned response to this ongoing terrorist attack." It is a delicate balance for Mr. Bush as he seeks to keep the country on high alert while encouraging people to get on with their normal lives