Bush reassures Americans about anthrax
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush sought to ease the public's fears about anthrax in his weekly radio address on Saturday, saying government officials would find the perpetrators behind what he called "a second wave of terrorist attacks" on America.
The president said he was proud of the way law enforcement officers, health care personnel, postal employees and the American people had stepped to the forefront.
"As all Americans know, recent weeks have brought a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country," Bush said. "There's no precedent for this type of biological attack."
"And as we deal with this new threat, we are learning new information every day," he said.
There have been 17 anthrax infections confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control in recent weeks. Ten of those cases involved inhalation anthrax and resulted in four deaths. Seven cases of skin anthrax also have been confirmed.
Bush noted that investigators erred in the early days of the anthrax threat, believing that spores of the potentially deadly bacteria could not escape a sealed envelope.
"We now know differently," he said. "But anthrax is not contagious, so it does not spread from human to human."
The president said that health officials were acting quickly to distribute antibiotics for those who may have been exposed to the bacteria, and the government is testing facilities rapidly for anthrax spores. The Postal Service, he said, is pushing to put into service sterilization equipment to kill spores in and on the mail.
Bush outlined a series of precautions for the American people:
- Take caution opening mail, and tell your doctor if you believe you may have been exposed to anthrax
- Don't take antibiotics unless you need them
- Contact law enforcement if you see anything suspicious or have useful information
- Don't perpetuate anthrax pranks -- "sending false alarms is a serious criminal offense"
The government "will solve these crimes," the president said, "and we will punish those responsible."
"As we learn more about these anthrax attacks, the government will share the confirmed and credible information we have with you," he said. "I'm proud of our citizens' calm and reasons response to this ongoing terrorist attack."
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