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New York Tourists Not Deterred by NBC Newsroom Anthrax Discovery

Aired October 13, 2001 - 08:03   ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: In Reno, Nevada, a second round of tests on a suspicious letter received by an office of software giant Microsoft shows there was probably no anthrax in the letter. More tests will be conducted this morning. And in Culver City, California, an employee of Sony Pictures is hospitalized after opening a letter with a powdery substance. Tests on the employee and the powder have not yet been completed.

And now to New York and CNN's Maria Hinojosa to talk about the anthrax alert and response there -- Maria.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeanne, the mood at the NBC Newsroom, we've been told, as much as there is across much of New York City and the nation. People handling the news that the anthrax is here in New York City with different degrees of fear and concern.

For some New Yorkers, the fact that the anthrax has been detected, caught, the fact that the woman who tested positive is on antibiotics and is responding well, the fact that news media organizations are closing down their newsrooms, this gives a sense of comfort, a sense that we're on alert and we're responding.

But for other New Yorkers who have been on an emotional roller coaster since September 11, the news that anthrax was in New York City was almost the thing that has tipped them over to the other side. Several New York City parents who I was with last night said that they had been feeling a tremendous sense of really safety but that this news had really brought it home for them.

Now, what you do see when you walk on the streets of New York City, not as opposed to a month ago, where you could see in the faces of New Yorkers sorrow, sadness, pain or fear, right now you don't really see that. You see a lot of people doing their daily business, taking care of life, moving on, not a sense of fear in their faces.

And one thing that has been a sense of comfort for many New Yorkers is when they see tourists in the city. And this group of ladies who are with me are from Danville, Virginia. They came up yesterday morning and not only are they in New York City, but they came this morning to NBC.

Now, you obviously have no concern about being here.

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: Not at all. We're happy to be here and hope that we can help the economy a little bit.

HINOJOSA: Why did you decide to come to New York City now?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: For the experience, wanting everyone to know that we're happy to be here to support them, to do everything that we can. We went to ground zero yesterday and saw the wonderful people there that are helping and it just gives you a sense really of security here. There really isn't any reason to be afraid.


HINOJOSA: Now, some people who I've spoken to said the last thing they want to do right now is come to New York City. And your feeling was?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: Oh, I love New York. I've been six years. I wanted to come back this year and I'm not afraid at all.

HINOJOSA: And you don't feel...

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: And everyone has been so wonderful to us.

HINOJOSA: And particularly coming here, in front of NBC, where there was the detection of anthrax?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: No, I'm not afraid at all.

HINOJOSA: OK. And how about for you ladies on this side, also from Danville, Virginia? Your sense of what are you seeing from New Yorkers? What did you expect to see and what are you seeing from them?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: They're very friendly, very helpful when you ask them questions. Everybody's just been really, really nice and supportive of tourists, really.

HINOJOSA: Are you picking up a sense of fear from people or not?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: No. No. No, I have not, and actually I, yesterday at ground zero I felt this awe of just everybody together as a one, you know, in front of the World Trade Center, where it is no longer there. And it was just, everybody was filing by so quietly and respectfully for the situation and it was just amazing.

HINOJOSA: Now, when you told your family that you were going to come to New York, come back to New York, they said you're crazy?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: No, they said go. Enjoy life, you know? Do what you normally do.

HINOJOSA: Did they say we're going to come and visit New York as well or were they a little bit more skeptical about coming to New York?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: No, there weren't skeptical.

HINOJOSA: So that means we might see some more tourists?

UNIDENTIFIED TOURIST: Right. Right. We'll be back.

HINOJOSA: At least some more tourists from Danville, Virginia.

Changing emotions in a city and a country that is getting used to living with a changing reality every day -- back to you, Jeanne.

MESERVE: Maria, we've heard a lot about people stocking up on antibiotics around the country. Do you know if in New York there's been a run on Cipro?

HINOJOSA: I have heard that some pharmacies have been hearing and getting requests from increased numbers of people asking for antibiotics. Nothing yet about a run on antibiotics, but yes, I have heard even people who I know saying I think I'm going to call the doctor, I think I'm going to go ahead and order that. But nothing yet in a state of panic -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Maria Hinojosa in New York, thanks so much -- Marty, back to you.


The anthrax exposure cases in Florida are different from the one in New York. The three people in Boca Raton were exposed to inhaled anthrax and the New York woman to skin anthrax.

Our medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to explain the difference between the two. Good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks. Good morning, Martin.

There are three methods of anthrax. There's the inhaled, the ingested and then, as we've seen in this latest case, the kind that you get through your skin or the so-called cutaneous anthrax.


GUPTA (voice-over): This is the most common and treatable form of the disease. It is very different from inhalation anthrax, the form that killed the Florida man and reached two others who worked in the same building.

None of the forms of anthrax are contagious from one person to another. Cutaneous infection most commonly occurs if the anthrax spores or bacteria come in contact with an open wound, cut or sore in the skin. Anthrax is unlikely to infect a person if it merely touches healthy or intact skin. Most cutaneous anthrax cases are from contact with an infected animal.

However, it can also be weaponized and delivered through, for example, powder contaminated with anthrax spores. The incubation period ranges from 12 hours to five days. At first a patient may notice an itch, a rash, which may eventually turn black. If left untreated, the anthrax spores can travel through the bloodstream and get into the lymph glands. The bacteria can infiltrate the body's immune system, causing shock and, in some cases, death. Several types of antibiotics are effective to treat the cutaneous form of the disease, including penicillin and Ciprofloxacin, also known as Cipro.


GUPTA: And even without antibiotic treatment, three out of four patients will beat the infection. With the antibiotics we're talking about here, nearly everyone will recover from this cutaneous type of infection.

SAVIDGE: And one of the avenues that this seems to be introduced is obviously through the mail. How is it that the bacteria anthrax survives?

GUPTA: It's a very interesting question. These spores that we're talking about can be very, very resistant to all sorts of environmental changes. But your question is a good one, because even though it can be delivered through the mail, it's not a very effective way of delivering anthrax and oftentimes you may get it on your skin, again, which is easily treatable.

SAVIDGE: The mortality rate of cutaneous anthrax not that high, is it?

GUPTA: Not at all. Even without any sort of treatment, up to 75, 80 percent of people will do just fine. Obviously, make sure to get it checked out. If you're put on the antibiotics, nearly everyone recover from this just fine.

SAVIDGE: And because of that, why would terrorists use this as a weapon?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's an important point, Martin. I think the anthrax is anthrax and if you're actually able to get it on the skin, that's one thing. I think sometimes the goal is to actually have people breathe it in. That might be the word of caution. If you do, you are suspicious of something, make sure not to actually get it anywhere near somewhere where you might breathe it in. If you get it on your hands, it's pretty treatable.

SAVIDGE: And if you are treated, do you make a full recovery or there's no long-term effect?

GUPTA: From the cutaneous, from the skin type you'll make a full recovery. The inhaled type, it's important if you do think you've been exposed somehow, breathe it in, make sure you get checked out right away because if you start the treatment before any symptoms start, your chance of recovery is much higher.

SAVIDGE: And again with the cutaneous if you had a patient who came in with the symptoms, what would you tell them? How would you go?

GUPTA: If someone came in with any kind of rash or any kind of ulceration like that, the first thing to do is make sure that there's a diagnosis, that you actually find the bacillus, the anthrax bacteria, in the wound. If that's the case, go ahead and start the antibiotics. Make sure to keep the wound clean.

I've been recommending to people who ask me any sort of exposure wash your hands right away, go to the hospital and get it checked out.

SAVIDGE: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. Always a pleasure.




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