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Anthrax Scare: Children are Vulnerable to Biological Agents

Aired October 22, 2001 - 06:22   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: Here now the latest numbers on those anthrax cases in the U.S. Nine people have been infected with anthrax, and of those cases, three are inhaled anthrax and six are the cutaneous or skin anthrax. Thirty-two people have been exposed to anthrax, and one person has died after being infected with the bacterium.

A mail facility in northwest Washington and an airmail handling center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport are closed until further notice for environmental testing. The CDC has recommended the test after a postal worker was hospitalized with inhaled anthrax. More than 2,000 workers at both of those plants are now being tested for anthrax exposure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BROWN, ADMIN. FAIRFAX HOSPITAL: The patient is listed in serious but stable condition and is being treated aggressively with antibiotics.

The CDC is asking that people who worked in the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C. and the BWI postal facility to go to One Judiciary Square at 441 H Street Northwest in Washington, D.C. today to receive antibiotics at no charge as a precaution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: And in the meantime, those offices will all be closed today.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: In Hamilton, New Jersey, preliminary tests show -- indicate a strong presence of anthrax at a post office there. The FBI took 23 samples at that facility, 13 have come back positive. That has resulted in postal workers being tested for anthrax.

And results are not back yet on samples that were taken from a post office in West Trenton, that's where one worker's been confirmed with having the anthrax skin infection.

HARRIS: A letter sent from the U.S. to Argentina has tested positive for the presence of anthrax. This letter was mailed from Miami and it contained tourism pamphlets. The only person in the family who handled the letter has tested negative for anthrax. CALLAWAY: Anthrax is tough enough for adults to deal with, but can you imagine a child getting it? Pediatricians attending a professional conference over the week -- over the weekend were hit hard with how vulnerable our kids are to biological agents.

Dionne Anglin from CNN affiliate KRON in San Francisco has more on this, but we have a caution for you, some of the video is a bit unnerving in this piece.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIONNE ANGLIN, KRON-TV REPORTER (voice-over): Children are lower to the ground where heavier-than-air chemicals would fall. They also breathe more rapidly than adults, factors that accompany a new warning: children would be particularly vulnerable in a biochemical attack.

MARGUERITE SMALTIERI, PARENT: I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what's out there for him, and I'm afraid of how he's going to be affected.

ANGLIN: The topics of children and their response to certain antibiotics and how to identify biochemical illnesses among them, they are all part of the discussion in San Francisco at the National Conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

(on camera): The exhibits are plenty at this conference, products and other items geared toward children's needs, but there's another issue that's being addressed here, the fact that doctors are not fully prepared for the threat of bioterror as it relates to our kids.

DR. MICHAEL SHANNON, PEDIATRICIAN: The vaccines that are under development have never been tested in children. We have no sense of their safety. Some of the antibiotics we're recommending are not ideal for children.

ANGLIN (voice-over): Of the recent anthrax cases, only one child has been struck with the disease, the 7-month-old son of an ABC News employee. Rarely shown outside of New York, doctors at the conference display a photo of the infected area on the baby's arm. They say as pediatricians scramble to close the gaps in training and emergency planning, the best weapon for parents is knowledge.

DR. JOAN SHOOK, PEDIATRICIAN: Families should be informed that the agents are there. The risks are very -- really very small at this moment in time, but they need to be vigilant. If there's a wound on the child that is different or if there is something about the child's behavior or illness behavior that is a little bit suspicious or makes the family feel uncomfortable, they just need to seek medical care.

ANGLIN: In San Francisco, Dionne Anglin, KRON-4 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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