Oct. 5 -- A 63-year-old Florida man hospitalized with pulmonary anthrax is an "isolated case" with no evidence of terrorism, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said.
"Officials are aggressively investigating the individual's schedule for the last few weeks and the source of the infection," Thompson said Thursday.
Anthrax has been discussed as a possible agent in a potential biological attack by terrorists, but it also is a naturally occurring bacterium that has caused past human infections.
The infections often are fatal. At least two other human cases have been identified since 1974, including one in Florida, officials said. Thompson said the most recent case was of a man in Texas earlier this year.
Officials: Isolated Case
Health officials said the British-born patient, identified as Bob Stevens, a Palm Beach newspaper photo editor who lives in Lantana, Fla., was admitted to an undisclosed hospital early Tuesday. They suspected he had meningitis until lab results indicated he had pulmonary anthrax.
"I want to make sure that everybody understands that anthrax is not contagious, and is not communicable, which means it is not spread from person to person," Thompson said. "If it is caught early enough, it can be prevented and treated with antibiotics."
"There's plenty of [antibiotic] supply available," Thompson added, saying there was enough to treat 2 million people for 60 days. "People should not go out of their way and do anything other than what they're doing."
Stevens reportedly is in grave condition. An infectious disease specialist at the hospital where Stevens is being treated said he is on a ventilator and is sedated.
Florida officials insisted residents should not be alarmed.
"There is no reason to think that this incident is anything other than what we have seen in the United States over recent years," Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan said. "It is a rare illness but it has manifested itself in Florida many years ago, as well as other states in the country in more recent years. And there is no reason to believe at this juncture that this is anything other than the manifestation of a rare and obviously very serious illness that has found its way into the life of one individual."