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Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Anthrax fears played down
Emergency workers in Florida
Mr Blunkett tried to reassure people over anthrax
Fears that Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network might be about to launch an attack with anthrax have been played down by UK Home Secretary David Blunkett.

But he added that preparations were already underway in case biological weapons were deployed.

We do not know what happened in Florida came from a terrorist - it may have come from a madman who wanted to cause fear and dissension

David Blunkett
His remarks came after a British-born journalist died in Florida after becoming infected by the anthrax bacteria.

A colleague was later found to have traces of anthrax in his nose.

Mr Blunkett said: "We do not know what happened in Florida came from a terrorist - it may have come from a madman who wanted to cause fear and dissension."

He went to say that Health Secretary Alan Milburn was talking to his US counterpart, Tommy Thompson, about sharing information and vaccines.

David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett said a madman could be behind the Florida outbreak
Mr Blunkett said that the UK happened to "lead worldwide" in anthrax vaccines although the use of the bacteria in a biological attack was unlikely.

"If you were going to commit mass terrorism you would not use anthrax because of the nature of the spread of the disease and the nature of the dose that would have to be given," he said.

No proof

He added that a "couple of cases in Florida" was not proof of the terrorists using biological weapons.

Preparations had been made in the run-up to the millennium to deal with a biological attack.

"I think it's very important that I am busy making these preparations... whilst ensuring that people aren't afraid, as they were describing in Florida, to go out and shop and have their leisure because if we do the terrorists have won."

See also:

09 Oct 01 | Health
FBI pursues anthrax lead
09 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax infection
05 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax victim dies in Florida
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