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Anthrax Investigation: Another Potential Case Discovered at NBC

Aired October 25, 2001 - 13:35   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.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We now know of a possible -- what the CDC is describing as a suspicious case of skin anthrax at NBC. This is someone who handled the letter that Tom Brokaw received. Now, you have to go back in your mind to two Fridays ago when Mr. Brokaw's assistant, it was announced, had skin anthrax.

Now a second person appears possibly suspicious. These are all the words that are being used to characterize this. No one is willing to say at this point it is. But they are willing to say it kind of looks like it is at this point.

Sanjay Gupta is in Atlanta -- Dr. Gupta -- to join us, help sort this out.

The question that came to my mind when I heard this is: If it came from the same letter, and we know that this NBC person handled the letter, why would the -- why would it take so long, if it is anthrax, to manifest itself?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, anthrax can take a while, Aaron, to manifest itself.

It can be different lengths of time in different people. And people have thrown around the number 60 days. It can be up to 60 days before these spores actually germinate and cause symptoms, Aaron. The terms that we're sort of playing around sort of speak to that to some extent.

BROWN: So the difference is not in -- the difference is the patient, not the quality of anthrax itself? So the anthrax -- the same anthrax may take longer to show up in me than it shows up in you.

GUPTA: That's right.

And part of that would have to do with perhaps how much anthrax got on the person's skin. It would have to do with the person's immune status, how well they do fight off infections, whether they had any open, broken skin on their hands, or wherever on their body where the anthrax touched. All those things would be factors in terms of how and when the anthrax infection might occur.

BROWN: Absent -- I am not sure what the right word is here -- absent a sore on your arm or on some part of your body, is there any way for the stuff to get into your system? Does it need that entry?

GUPTA: It really does.

I have been talking to several infectious disease experts about that very question. It really needs to come into some sort of contact with the membrane, if you will, underneath your skin, and to some sort of blood supply to that area of your body there. If you have healthy, intact skin, what they have told me, it's very unlikely, almost impossible for you to actually get the cutaneous -- again, the skin -- infection, from merely just handling it with healthy skin.

BROWN: But given how small the spores are, do most of us just have a hangnail, have a cut, have a something on our hands or on our body that would be the entry point?

GUPTA: Absolutely, Aaron. And that's exactly right -- you know, broken cuticle, something that you may not even really think of as necessarily being broken skin. It doesn't have to be some big abrasion or cut on your skin. It could be a broken cuticle or something like that that could serve as an entry point, is what I've heard.

BROWN: Dr. Gupta, thank you -- Sanjay Gupta in Atlanta helping us sort out this latest suspected case of skin anthrax -- CDC and New York public health officials also trying to figure out whether, in fact, that is what it is. But there are indications that a second NBC News employee will now deal with the skin form, the less deadly form of anthrax.

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