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Target: Terrorism - Florida Anthrax Case Appears to be Isolated Case, Not Terrorism

Aired October 5, 2001 - 05:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: An elderly Florida man is critically ill with anthrax. The last time doctors treated the disease in Florida was back in 1974.

Now, the patient is from near West Palm Beach, Florida. And anthrax is often linked with biological warfare, but not this time, as CNN's John Zarrella reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Good afternoon.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The news was delivered by the president's point man for the medical defense against biological weapons.

THOMPSON: The Centers for Disease Control has just confirmed the diagnosis of anthrax in a patient in a Florida hospital.

ZARRELLA: A single case of this rare infection immediately raised the question: Was this a case of terrorism?

THOMPSON: It appears that this is just an isolated case. There is no evidence of terrorism.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR FRANK BROGAN, FLORIDA: We have a team of epidemiologists, both from our state Public Health Department and from the CDC, as well as our local team working vigorously on trying to establish exactly where or how this individual came in contact with this germ.

ZARRELLA: The patient -- a 63-year-old photographer -- showed up at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital near West Palm Beach early Tuesday confused, vomiting and running a fever.

The emergency room ran a series of tests, and in this new heightened state of awareness, the ER sent a specimen to a state lab that determined the patient had suffered from inhaled anthrax.

DR. JEFFREY KOPLAN, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: ... which is unusual. We haven't had one in the U.S. for about 20 years. And it can be caused by a variety of different mechanisms, and that's what we've gone down to investigate -- what was the source of exposure to anthrax for this individual.

ZARRELLA: Wherever he came in contact with the anthrax, there is one risk that can be dismissed out of hand: the risk that he passed on this infection.

KOPLAN: There is no person-to-person spread from this anthrax -- from this organism. It's not acquired by being close to someone who has it, so other people don't have to worry about their being infected from this individual.

ZARRELLA: In the coming days, epidemiologists -- disease detectives -- will be trying to retrace every step of the patient to get to the source. That has been difficult to this point, because the patient has been sedated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: That was John Zarrella reporting, and CNN's medical unit is working this story. They're saying the prognosis is not good. He is expected to die.

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