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Anthrax: How Other Countries Are Reacting

Aired October 18, 2001 - 05:37   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, now back to the big story here on the anthrax here. You can't pick up a newspaper or turn a television on, a radio anywhere without hearing about it and about the panic that is starting to spread in certain areas. But we wonder about the rest of the world - we know how things are here.

We're joined this morning by Iain Simpson. He is with the World Health Organization and that's an organization that basically has been spending a lot of time talking to governments around the world about health issues, and we want to talk this morning Mr. Simpson, first of all, thank you for joining us today.

What is - has the WHO ...

IAIN SIMPSON, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Thank you.

HARRIS: ... been speaking very often lately now with other countries? Have they been coming to you for advice about how to deal with anthrax or any other communicable disease right now in the wake of this terror war?

SIMPSON: They've been coming to us for advice really since September 11th, because I think at that point governments realized that really all bets were off, and that anything that they'd previously dismissed is unlikely or even impossible should now happen.

They've been coming to us asking for advice, asking what they should do. We've provided a great deal of information directly to governments and also by our various web sites so that people -- the general public can assess that information too and see that there is a network there. There is a surveillance system there, and there is a system for responding to any infectious disease whether it started deliberately or occurring naturally.

HARRIS: Now are these governments coming to the WHO and asking for advice because there's already concern or panic within their populations or are they doing it to head it off?

SIMPSON: Well I think a bit of both, and one of the messages we're trying to get out is that one of the ways to prevent panic is for governments and individual health authorities to put out information, as is being done very widely in the U.S.

A lot of governments are anxious that if they start talking to their populations about anthrax people will think well maybe it's happening already. But we think that the important thing is for governments to tell people that there are these systems in place, that it is possible to treat the disease and that people shouldn't worry -- they shouldn't panic, but they should rely on a well-equipped, well- trained public health system and that, as I say, they shouldn't worry. They shouldn't panic, and they certainly should not go out and buy their own drug supplies. They should rely on drugs supplied by doctors or hospitals.

HARRIS: Have you been seeing much of that? We've been talking about that quite a bit here in the states, about people stockpiling Cipro and other drugs. Has that been happening in Europe?

SIMPSON: It is happening a little. There are various reports, various rumors. I think the United States is ahead in the sense that people are starting to go out and buy their own drugs. We're trying very hard to discourage people from doing this.

If you're sick, you really need to go to a doctor or a hospital. You should not be self-medicating with antibiotics. They're powerful drugs, but they're targeted against particular bacteria, particular germs, particular diseases. If you misuse them, then they might not work. They could even do your harm and more importantly, they can be lost to the future, because drug resistance grows very quickly if the disease has become resistance to a powerful antibiotic. It means we can't use those to treat it in the future.

People should really rely on the health service and on their doctors.

HARRIS: You've just proven that an ounce of information can prove -- can cure a pound of panic. Iain Simpson, thank you very much. We certainly appreciate your time this morning.

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