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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Florida Officials Address Second Anthrax Case

Aired October 8, 2001 - 16:36   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go to Palm Beach County, Florida, where they found a second case of anthrax. These are health officials speaking.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... local officials, including the city of Boca Raton, the Delray Beach Police Department and many other agencies have been working together on this issue.

Today, we have been working at the Delray Annex to provided medications and to gather information for the people who worked at AMI -- were also people who either visited or were involved with that facility. Again, I want to say that this is an issue that we have taken very seriously and have worked very hard in the last five days, starting from JFK Hospital and Dr. Larry Bush, all the way through to today and results from the CDC and the state.

I would like to turn it over to the secretary of health.

DR. JOHN AGWUNOBI, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Thank you Commissioner.

QUESTION: What's your name again?

AGWUNOBI: My name is John Agwunobi. And that is spelled A-G-W- U-N-O-B-I -- first name John.

I have just witnessed something very moving, something that has me feeling very proud. We visited the Delray Health -- Delray Beach Health Center, where we saw state, local and some federal agency individuals working together in a coalition, working together with citizens and volunteers to help others.

The public health system here in Palm Beach has really rallied around the task at hand. We have, as of yesterday, identified an individual who was found to have been exposed to anthrax. This is in addition to the previous individual, who, unfortunately, expired from anthrax, the clinical disease.

We have also found anthrax within the AMI building, specifically associated with the workstation of Mr. Stevens. For public health reasons, in order to conduct further public health environmental testing and to pursue our investigation, we have secured the AMI building. Anthrax is not a contagious disease.

But for obvious public health reasons, we have decided to evaluate, to investigate and to protect those individuals that work in that building, those individuals who may have visited that building for significant amounts of time. As a result, we have asked them to join us, to meet with us at the Delray Beach health center so that we can offer them prophylactic antibiotics, and so that our team can work with them, answering their questions, educating them, allaying their fears, assuring them that the risk is low, despite the fact that they worked in that building.

We have a vigorous investigation ongoing from a public health standpoint. It will continue. We need your help. There are a few individuals who work in that building who we have yet been unable to contact. And if I can give you a number that I would like for you to please put on the air so that, if those individuals are watching, they can contact us, I would appreciate it. The number I have is a 1-800 number: 1-800-342-3557. Thank you.

Dr. Jean Malecki, the county health department director.

DR. JEAN MALECKI, DIR., PALM BEACH CO. HEALTH DEPARTMENT: As we move forward continuing this investigation, our focus currently is, once again, looking at potential cases admitted to the ICU.

So, prospectively, we are going to continue this investigation ongoing until we are all satisfied that we have covered all bases and uncovered all stones. Also, we will continue to monitor laboratory results coming in to our hospital setting. And most importantly right now is to continue the monitoring of the employees of American Media Incorporated,

As you know, today we did a massive evaluation of not just employees, but some visitors, too, who attended that building. So moving forward with monitoring them and making sure they get the appropriate prophylactic medication is part of the moving forward with this investigation.

Dr. Waresmith (ph), do you have any comments you would like to make?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Available for questions?

MALECKI: Available for questions?

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: We've been listening to Florida health officials describe their efforts to get to the bottom of what has turned out to be a second case, diagnosed case of anthrax in the Palm Beach area.

Just very briefly, you heard the state health secretary say that they have, as of yesterday, found the second person and that, right now, they have closed the building where the person worked. It happened to be the same building, American Media Institute (sic), where the man who died last week had worked. So, understandably, there is concern. They are now testing everyone who worked in the building and who has been there.

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