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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  October 31, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160


DHSS ANNOUNCES SUSPECTED CASE OF CUTANEOUS ANTHRAX
WITH NEW JERSEY POSTAL CONNECTION



Acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. George T. DiFerdinando, Jr. announced today a suspected case of cutaneous anthrax in a Delaware resident who works as a postal worker in the South Jersey Processing and Distribution Facility in Bellmawr (Camden County) New Jersey. Dr. DiFerdinando said that the postal worker has responded to treatment, is doing fine, and scheduled to return to work. The postal worker first presented with symptoms on October 13.

"This suspected case of cutaneous - or skin anthrax - will prompt further active surveillance throughout the state by public health officials in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware," said Dr. DiFerdinando. "I am still urging residents to stay calm, but vigilant. Observe your surroundings and report anything unusual to the police."

Dr. DiFerdinando reiterated that the risk of contracting anthrax is low and that all the people who have contracted skin anthrax have recovered or are recovering with antibiotic therapy.

Dr. DiFerdinando said that the United States Postal Service, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be coordinating the environmental sampling to ensure consistency with other postal facilities already in the process of being tested. The United States Postal Service has closed the facility at least while the environmental testing is being done.

According to the CDC and DHSS, the health risk to other workers at the South Jersey facility is low given that the worker's skin lesion developed on October 13th indicating an exposure time consistent with letters known to have passed through the Route 130 Mail Processing Facility in Hamilton Township.

Assistant Commissioner and State Epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz, MD said that although the risk from exposure is felt to be low, the DHSS, the CDC and the postal facility will make a 10-day course of prophylactic antibiotics available to those workers who request such therapy to further reduce this low risk. Dr. Bresnitz urged all workers with any recent dermatological or pulmonary symptoms to see a physician at this time.

Dr. Bresnitz said that the DHSS and CDC have established an active surveillance system for diagnosing inhalational anthrax in New Jersey - that now extends to Pennsylvania and will now be expanded to Delaware in light of this most recent case of skin anthrax. In this system, 26 hospitals in central New Jersey and select Pennsylvania hospitals send in daily information on persons admitted to an Intensive Care Unit who have symptoms that could be inhalational anthrax. The hospitals also provide daily reviews of emergency room visits and microbiology laboratory results.

For detecting cutaneous anthrax, these hospitals also send in reports of skin disease that may be cutaneous anthrax as part of the active surveillance system. DHSS and CDC clinicians follow up on these patients to determine if they require further testing. Information on the diagnosis of anthrax is available on the DHSS website and has been disseminated through local health departments in the state to emergency room physicians, primary care physicians and dermatologists.

To date, investigators have examined more than 54 reports. The majority of these reports were deemed unlikely based on information obtained from the hospital, physician or the patient.

In addition to this suspected case of skin anthrax in a Delaware resident, the DHSS and CDC are reporting the following:

Patients Patient Status Conditions
New Jersey resident with Cutaneous Anthrax Confirmed by CDC on Oct 29 Released from hospital and recovering
West Trenton Postal Worker with Cutaneous Anthrax Confirmed by CDC on Oct. 18 Recovering
Route 130 Hamilton Mail Processing Facility Worker with Cutaneous Anthrax Listed as Suspected by CDC on Oct. 18 Recovering
Route 130 Hamilton Mail Processing Facility Worker with Cutaneous Anthrax Listed as confirmed on Oct. 19 by Pennsylvania Department of Health Recovering
Route 130 Hamilton Mail Processing Facility Worker with Inhalational Anthrax Confirmed by CDC on Oct 28. Listed as suspected by CDC on Oct. 23. Fair condition and still hospitalized
Route 130 Mail Hamilton Processing Facility Worker with Inhalational Anthrax Confirmed by CDC on Oct. 29 Listed as suspected on Oct. 25 by CDC. Discharged from hospital and recovering

The DHSS has established a bioterrorism phone line at the Emergency Operations Center at 609-538-6030 that is open between 8 am and 11 pm until further notice. Hearing-impaired residents with anthrax-related concerns can contact the New Jersey Relay Center by dialing either 711 or 1-800- 852-7899. The Relay Center will convey the message to DHSS at 609-538-6030. Information is also available on the website at www.state.nj.us/health.


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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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