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Posted October 27, 2001 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Anthrax victim in critical condition

By Kevin Killen

A 59-year-old Winchester man, suffering from inhalation anthrax, was in critical condition Friday night at Winchester Me-dical Center, according to hospital spokesman Wes Williams.

The man, whose name has not yet been released, is an employee of the U.S. State Department mail facility in Sterling and was hospitalized Thursday with the disease, hospital officials said.

The man's exposure is presumed to be through handling mail at work.
Williams said the man was "resting comfortably" late Friday afternoon. He is being treated by three antibiotics -- including Cipro -- Williams said. He also is receiving doses of penicillin, which is standard procedure, Williams said.

The man was admitted to the emergency room late Wednesday night, went home, but then was admitted the next morning after results from tests suggested inhalation anthrax.
Hospital officials received conclusive results Thursday night that the man had anthrax after conducting a series of tests, including a blood culture.

The Virginia Department of Health also confirmed that the man had the disease by issuing a press release Thursday afternoon.

The man met with doctors throughout the day Friday, Williams said. The hospital is not releasing the name of his doctor at the moment, Williams said.

Although a steady stream of local and national media has contacted the hospital about the man, Friday was "relatively quiet" at Winchester Medical Center, Williams said.

"Other than that, it's been business as usual," Williams said.

The FBI and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention have been to the hospital to conduct investigations, he said. Results of those investigations have not been released.

Patients and some staff at the hospital -- who wished to not be identified -- differed in their reactions to the first documented anthrax case in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Some said it was a shame, while others said maybe it was a sign of the times.

Williams said the hospital is equipped to handle anthrax cases, having a readily available supply of Cipro and a good medical staff.

Dr. Diane Helentjaris, the Lord Fairfax Health District health director, commended the hospital on its good work.

"Their team was ready and they acted quickly and appropriately," she said.

She agreed that Winchester Medical Center is well-equipped to handle such cases.
As of late Friday, Williams said he had not heard of any other potential cases coming to the hospital.

The Winchester man's diagnosis brings the total number of confirmed anthrax cases in the nation to 13.

Three deaths have been linked to anthrax, including two Brentwood postal workers in Washington, D.C. Two others from that postal facility are in serious condition at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Anthrax is a large spore-forming rod-shaped bacteria and is characterized into three forms harmful to humans: Cutaneous, inhalation and gastrointestinal, according to the CDC's Web site.

Symptoms of inhalation anthrax in humans resemble the common cold in the early stages, with fever, muscle aches and malaise. After several days, an infected person suffers severe breathing problems and shock, with meningitis occurring.

Inhalation anthrax, caused when about 40,000 spores of the bacteria are inhaled and then lodge in the lungs, is a grave form of the disease, according to Kathryn Warren, spokeswoman for the CDC in Atlanta.

Eighty percent of cases of inhalation anthrax are fatal if not treated quickly, she said. However, the cutaneous, or "skin form" of anthrax, is less lethal if treated early enough, she said.

Also, anthrax is not a contagious disease, Warren said.
"One cannot get anthrax from someone who has the disease if they cough or sneeze," Warren said.

Self-education is one the best ways to stay informed, she said.

Updated information can be found at the CDC's Web site at www.cdc.gov.

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