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FOR RELEASE: October 18, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Media Advisory: Bioterrorism and Anthrax Issues

Note to Editors and Reporters:

The Oklahoma State Department of Health will hold a news briefing Friday, October 19, at 2 p.m. in Room 307 of the agency located at 1000 N.E. 10th Street, Oklahoma City.

This briefing is intended to provide media with the latest information on bioterrorism issues in Oklahoma. Featured will be Dr. Michael Crutcher, State Epidemiologist, and Dr. Robert Petrone, Bioterrorism Coordinator for the state health department.

Due to the events occurring at the national level and understandably, the public's “need to know,” we have received a large volume of media requests. We hope this news briefing will answer many of your questions.

Beginning with this media advisory, we will also be providing daily information updates on our bioterrorism surveillance.

Bioterrorism and Anthrax Update 10/18/01:

As of noon Thursday, Oct. 18, the Public Health Laboratory of the Oklahoma State Department of Health had received 130 environmental samples for testing for anthrax or other biologic agents. Of that number, tests have been completed on 122 samples, all negative for biologic contamination. Items submitted for analysis include letters, packages, magazines, currency, and food.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is currently working to standardize a procedure for the collection and transport of specimens of a possible biologic agent. This procedure would be used by the initial responders at the site of a suspected biologic contamination (such as fire, police, county sheriffs, and county health department personnel) who will be collecting specimens that possibly contain a biologic agent.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has provided public health guidelines for bioterrorism to city and county health departments, emergency medicine directors, infection control practitioners, infectious disease physicians, and laboratory directors as part of the Public Health Alert System. These recommendations and additional information concerning anthrax and other biologic agents can be accessed on the state health department's Web site at: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/cdd/anthrax/anthrax.htm. This Web site will be updated regularly to provide the public and the medical community with the most current information on these issues.

State health officials continue to urge calm and caution for Oklahoma citizens. The best course of action for citizens to follow is to be alert to their health and that of their family and to report any unusual symptoms or diseases to their health care provider. In turn, health care providers should be alert for persons with symptoms consistent with anthrax or other bioterrorism agents and for any unusual disease manifestations or clusters of disease.

State health officials continue to discourage the routine use of antibiotics in the absence of any bioterrorism event in Oklahoma. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics may further contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance.


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