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Sandra Heavenstone on how the world health organisation sees anthrax ...
Sandra Heavenstone on how the world health organisation sees anthrax

Pulmonary anthrax is very rare in the US. There were 18 reported cases in the 20th century with the last case some 25 years ago.

Since the attacks of 11 September, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention have reported 15 confirmed and four suspected cases of anthrax.

The World Health Organisation's executive director on communicable diseases, Dr David Heymann, says: 'It is important public health systems across the globe at the national and local levels are well prepared for possible anthrax cases. However, health authorities should communicate that the current situation is no cause for panic.

'People should not hoard antibiotics or take them in an attempt to prevent infection. If more and more antibiotics are rendered ineffective, the fight against infectious disease would suffer a huge setback,' he adds.

The World Health Organisation has links with organisations around the world that monitor disease outbreaks. The network was launched links 72 agencies, many of which are equipped to diagnose unusual agents and handle dangerous pathogens.

It electronically links the expertise and skills needed to keep the international community alert to the threat of outbreaks.

The network has four main tasks:

- Disease intelligence and detection

- Verification of rumours and reports

- Immediate alert

- Rapid response.

Don Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, Washington DC says: 'In the United States, it is very important key information about biological and other threats is conveyed quickly to local authorities. Local officials must prepare for the possibility of larger-scale biological threats, and American cities and towns are eager to receive guidelines from national and international experts.'

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