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Last Updated

22 Aug 2003

Source: Detroit News, October 5, 2001.

Florida man hospitalized with anthrax

Patient has lethal pulmonary form of disease. No evidence of terrorism, U.S. health official says

By Elizabeth Neus / Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON -- A Lantana, Fla., man has been diagnosed with deadly inhalation anthrax, a rare disease that terrorism experts consider one of the top biological threats.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said Thursday it was an isolated case with no evidence of terrorism.

Florida health officials said they had not determined how the victim, Bob Stevens, 63, photo editor of the weekly tabloid the Sun, contracted the disease.

It can result from contact with livestock or wildlife such as deer, and the man was described as an outdoorsman who liked to walk in the woods.

Doctors believe he contracted it in Florida, where he is hospitalized in guarded condition.

"We're praying that he pulls through," said Rita Stevens, a daughter-in-law who lives in Tallahassee. She said the family did not know how he contracted the disease. "We're devastated."

Inhalation anthrax is not passed from person to person, and it is not contagious. Early symptoms resemble a cold but proceed rapidly to severe respiratory problems, shock and often death.

"Right now it's an isolated case. We only have one," said Dr. Landis Crockett, director of disease control for the Florida Department of Health.

The FBI is involved, but Health and Human Services has said it has no evidence the anthrax case is bioterrorism, FBI spokesman Bill Carter said.

Florida health officials have not ruled out the possibility the patient may have stumbled across a "terrorist cache" of anthrax.

The CDC is investigating in Florida and in North Carolina, where the man recently went on vacation.

Anthrax occurs in the United States. There was an outbreak among livestock in Texas last year. At least one rancher contracted cutaneous anthrax -- which occurs on the skin -- after touching diseased animals but was treated successfully.

Inhalation anthrax is trickier to treat because antibiotics must begin soon after exposure. Death occurs in a few days.

Doctors treating the man said he came to the hospital Monday with a fever, confused and vomiting, and was put on a ventilator almost immediately.

"We never had a conversation with the patient," said Dr. Larry Bush of the JFK Medical Center in Palm Beach County.