Postal Service urged to hone plans for coping with anthrax

first_imgSep 15, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the most important lesson gleaned from examining the anthrax exposures in US Postal Service (USPS) facilities in 2001 is that agencies must err on the side of caution to protect people from uncertain and potentially life-threatening risks. GAO investigators concluded that critical information that could have alerted public health agencies and USPS to the risks postal employees faced in 2001 was not quickly available. The agency also suggests that the USPS update its guidelines for responding to anthrax attacks and similar threats. The Postal Service’s revised rules from December 2003 still don’t address problems that occurred during the anthrax incidents, investigators say. Despite the proximity of postal inspectors, public health experts, and FBI agents, agencies reported that information was not always shared among those involved, the report adds. The Postal Service response to the anthrax attacks has included creating a center to coordinate internal communication and collaborating with other agencies to develop guidelines for such incidents, the GAO says. “It’s important for agencies to err on the side of caution—meaning that agencies should choose a course of action that poses the least risk of harm to individuals,” the GAO recommends in the Sep 9 report. See also: The USPS closed the two postal facilities, but other contaminated sites remained open. The GAO’s findings were based on its review of actions surrounding closure of the two facilities and the decision to keep three others open. Brentwood was back in operation in December 2003, and Trenton is expected to reopen in February 2005. The GAO investigation into the United States’ first cases of bioterrorism-related anthrax came at the request of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., ranking minority member of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, and Reps. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.center_img Those guidelines have three main weaknesses, the GAO reports: They don’t define key terms such as what should trigger evacuation of a site; they include outdated, potentially confusing references; and they don’t address issues such as what steps to take between initial diagnosis of anthrax in a postal worker and confirmation of the disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although agencies are preparing policies and procedures to avoid confusion about where employees should obtain emergency medical services and who should pay for those services, it’s not clear when they will be ready, the GAO notes. The agency recommends that the Postal Service set and meet a clear schedule for completing those policies and procedures. Health officials initially underestimated the risks posed by the anthrax letters. Both the CDC and the Postal Service said agency officials would have made different decisions if they had understood earlier that anthrax spores could leak from taped, unopened letters and sicken postal workers. The USPS responded to a draft of the GAO report by saying it agreed with the thrust of the recommendations and was either already revising or would revise and clarify its guidance. USPS also added it was taking alternative action to address medical services and payment issues, the GAO said. In September and October 2001, at least four letters containing Bacillus anthracis spores were mailed to news media personnel and two US senators, contaminating the Trenton and Brentwood postal facilities in Hamilton, N.J., and Washington, D.C., respectively. The attacks caused 22 anthrax cases and five deaths, including nine cases and two deaths among postal employees. Problems also occurred when the USPS delayed the release of anthrax spore counts from one of its facilities because it was unsure how much risk the counts posed, the GAO says. In addition, postal employees called the long-standing distrust of management a communication barrier. GAO report, “Better Guidance is Needed to Ensure an Appropriate Response to Anthrax Contamination” [Full text]last_img read more

Read More »

H1N1 FLU BREAKING NEWS: Sanofi donates vaccine, cases soar in Chile, Australia ups alert level, more NYC deaths, antivirals safe in pregnancy

first_imgJun 17, 2009Sanofi donates 100 million pandemic vaccine doses to WHOA Sanofi executive announced today at a health conference in Seattle that the company will donate 100 million doses of novel H1N1 influenza vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its efforts to help the world’s poorest nations respond to the pandemic, the company said in a press release. The company said that once vaccine production begins it will set aside 10% of doses to donate to the WHO. Novartis said recently it will provide discounted, but not free, vaccines.[Jun 17 Sanofi press release]Novel flu cases soar in ChileThe number of novel H1N1 cases in Chile surged to 3,125 today, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, citing a government update. The number is 1,431 more than the total for Chile reported by the WHO on Jun 15. Chile has reported two deaths from the virus, which seems to be striking children the hardest: 64% of infections are reported in the 5- to 19-year-old age-group. Elsewhere in South America, Argentina reported three more deaths, according to media reports.[Jun 17 AFP story]Australia moves to new pandemic alert levelAustralian Health Minister Nicola Roxon today raised the country’s pandemic response level from “contain” to “protect,” according to a government statement. The level is a new phase that was created to address the moderate severity of the novel H1N1 pandemic and is in line with the WHO’s phase 6 declaration, the government said. The “protect” phase calls for an emphasis on treating people who have severe infections. Roxon said states will phase in the new response level by Jun 26.[Jun 17 Australian government statement]NYC reports 7 more H1N1 deathsHealth officials in New York City reported seven more novel H1N1 deaths, raising the total to 23, according to the city’s latest surveillance update. Few details were available about the latest victims, though the report said all were between the ages of 25 and 64 and that most were hospitalized in late May at the peak of the outbreak. Overall, of the 20 deceased patients whose history was known, 16 had underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk.[New York City Department of Health report]Tamiflu, Relenza appear safe for pregnant womenLimited data indicate that the flu drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are relatively safe for pregnant women, who are at increased risk for flu complications, says a review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Oseltamivir is preferable for pregnant women because more safety data are available, but either drug may be used. Both drugs are considered compatible with breastfeeding. The novel H1N1 virus is sensitive to both drugs but resistant to older antivirals.[Early-release CMAJ article]US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten report first casesTwo Caribbean island territories, the US Virgin Islands and Dutch St. Maarten, have reported their first H1N1 flu cases, according to the Associated Press (AP). In the Virgin Islands, a woman who recently returned to St. Thomas from a trip abroad had the virus but was doing well. On St. Maarten, a 22-year-old American student at the American University of the Caribbean was recuperating, the story said.[Jun 16 AP report]last_img read more

Read More »

Great move by Falkensteiner. The world’s largest inflatable amusement park is arriving in Croatia

first_imgThe best annual ever for kids, right? And if children are happy with the holidays, so are parents. Win-win for everyone. We constantly say that there is a chronic lack of quality content in our tourism, and just one top content, especially for families with children, comes to Zadar.  For the first time, “The Monster” is leaving the UK and moving to Zadar – to the Falkensteiner Punta Skala resort – where it will entertain and entertain visitors from June 24 to August 4. This parkour is intended for children over the age of seven, and interestingly The Monster is also intended for adults. Niame, the largest “inflatable” in the world with a 300-meter-long track and an 18-meter high slide, is arriving in Croatia this summer.  Great motive for coming to the mentioned hotel, sales point compared to the competition and certainly a smart move by Falkensteiner.last_img read more

Read More »