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Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Doctors given anthrax advice
Laboratory workers
Information has been given on diagnosis and treatment
Doctors in the UK have been issued with advice on how to diagnose and respond to anthrax by the government in the aftermath of the outbreaks in the United States.

The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) has issued the guidance to health professionals in its weekly report on disease control.

The advice follows a series of mystery outbreaks of the disease in America amid fears of bio-terrorism.

Strains of anthrax
Respiratory: Similar beginnings to flu but shock occurs between two and six days later - frequently fatal
Intestinal: Severe food poisoning type symptoms - up to 50% mortality
Cutaneous: Rarely painful skin lesion - fatal in one in 20 cases
A spokesman for the government agency said that the advice had been drawn up by its own experts.

"We want to ensure that public health professionals have advice that is accurate, comprehensive and up to date about anthrax - the symptoms, signs and treatments," he said.

The report is read by GPs, hospital doctors, nurses, microbiologists and other health service professionals as well as health authorities.

In addition to a lead article on anthrax there are directions on how to spot symptoms and how to treat the disease.

Anthrax outbreaks

Four people in America have been diagnosed with anthrax.

An employee of the American NBC media network in New York has tested positive for anthrax.

One man died on 5 October after inhaling anthrax and two others were infected after testing positive for exposure in a separate incident in Florida.

The FBI has not established evidence of a link between the cases and the 11 September terror attacks in Washington or New York.

Tests are also being carried out on a letter said to contain a mysterious powder which was received by the New York Times on Friday.

There have been no cases in the UK.

But Health secretary Alan Milburn has already told the NHS to make sure it could deal with a biological or chemical weapon attack in the aftermath of 11 September.

This came as the World Health Organization advised governments to start preparing response plans in the event of such an attack, which it said could involve diseases such as anthrax, botulism - which causes paralysis - or smallpox.

The PHLS listed the advice for health professionals on its website.

Limitations

Its medical director Professor Brian Duerden told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that anthrax had clear limitations as a weapon of terror.

But authorities still had to be aware of the possibility that it could be used as such.

"It does not spread from person to person, even the severe pulmonary version affects the person who has it, but doesn't spread to other people," he said.

"Again the skin form has to be treated in the individual, but doesn't spread amongst their contacts.

"But we have to be aware, and we have to be alert to a possibility, which is why the guidelines have been issued."

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The BBC's Branwen Jeffreys
"New government guidelines have just been issued"

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See also:

13 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax 'may be linked to Bin Laden'
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
26 Sep 01 | Health
NHS plans germ war response
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
09 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax infection
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
UK signs pact against bioterrorism
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