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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Anthrax alert at US consulate
A shop in Mexico advertises Cipro
The demand for Cipro has shot up all over the world
Two employees at the American Consulate in Belfast have been taken to hospital after coming into contact with a white powder contained in the post.

A package was being taken for x-ray when one of the men noticed the powder on Monday.

They were isolated and showered down before being taken to hospital as a precaution.

Their clothes and the package were taken away for analysis.

Meanwhile, an expert has warned that unnecessary use of the anthrax antibiotic ciprofloxacin could undermine the effectiveness of the drug.

It may also compromise the effectiveness of other antibiotics used to treat a range of disease.

There is growing evidence that many people in the US are ignoring public health messages and stocking up on the powerful antibiotic.


If we have hundreds of thousands of people taking antibiotics unnecessarily we are going to see resistant strains

Dr Richard Corlin
Some US residents worried about the threat of anthrax are heading to Mexico, where antibiotics are cheaper and prescriptions are not needed.

The drug can also be easily purchased on the web from foreign manufacturers.

Dr Richard Corlin, president of the American Medical Association (AMA), said that widespread use of Cipro would increase the possibility that anthrax spores would develop resistance to the drug.

He said: "If we have hundreds of thousands of people taking antibiotics unnecessarily we are going to see resistant strains, and it is not just anthrax, we are going to see resistant strains of other organisms."

Dr Corlin accused people who were making Cipro available to the public of "cashing in".

He said: "Whether they are physicians, pharmacists, or business people, we do wish they would stop because they are hurting the public."

Side effects

Cipro is a powerful drug that is not recommended for use by children.

It can produce a number of unpleasant side effects. These include:

  • damage to the central nervous system such as dizziness, confusion, tremors, hallucinations, depression and increased risk of seizures
  • an allergic reaction which can produce difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face and hives
  • severe tissue inflammation of the colon
  • increased sensitivity of the skin to sunlight
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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Roger Harrabin
"The impact of fear is still being felt in the pharmacies"
See also:

20 Oct 01 | Americas
US anthrax strains matched
15 Oct 01 | World
Anthrax fears shake world
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