- ATLANTA (Reuters Health)
- Many United States post office workers who took antibiotics to protect
themselves from anthrax infection suffered adverse reactions to the drugs,
according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Nineteen percent reported severe nausea, vomiting,
or abdominal pain; 14% reported fainting, light-headedness or dizziness;
7% reported heartburn or acid reflux; and 6% had rashes, hives, or itchy
- Postal employees in New Jersey, New York City and the
District of Columbia were given a questionnaire on adverse events 7 to
10 days after protective antibiotic treatment was prescribed. The results
of the survey are published in the November 30th issue of the CDC's
and Mortality Weekly Report.
- A total of 5,819 postal workers responded to the
of whom 3,863 (66%) said they had started taking antibiotics.
- Eighty-nine percent reported using ciprofloxacin and
11% used other drugs, including doxycycline (6%) and amoxicillin
- The percentage of workers experiencing adverse events
was higher in New Jersey than in the other two locations. This may be
the CDC notes, by the different mode of questionnaire administration there.
In New Jersey, nurses gave workers the questionnaire, while workers
it themselves in New York and Washington.
- Eight percent of workers on ciprofloxacin stopped taking
the drug, either because of adverse events, fear of adverse events or
they thought they did not need it, CDC researchers report.
- A total of 82 people (2%) sought medical attention for
symptoms that may have been associated with a severe allergic reaction
- But CDC researchers point out that among the 33 patients
in New Jersey and New York who sought medical attention for possible
reactions, none were hospitalized. And none of their reactions were linked
to antibiotic treatment by the doctors who examined the patients.
- The CDC emphasizes that people exposed to anthrax must
take a full 60-day course of antibiotics to prevent anthrax
- According to Dr. Nancy Rosenstein, a medical officer
with the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases, people who have
adverse reactions to their antibiotics and are at risk for anthrax are
switched to another antibiotic if appropriate and are counseled about
- "There aren't any specific characteristics to allow
us to predict who is going to have an adverse reaction to
Rosenstein told Reuters Health during a telephone press conference.
many cases," she continued, "the side effects associated with
an antibiotic can be managed and the individual does not have to be
to another antibiotic."
- She pointed out that the data being reported are only
for the 10 days after start of preventive treatment. "We are going
to continue to monitor people for side effects throughout the course of
their antibiotics and there will be more data on that in the next couple
of months," she said.
- The findings are similar to those from an earlier survey
of workers at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, which found that
about 20% of those taking antibiotics--mostly ciprofloxacin--experienced
- SOURCE: Morbidity and
Weekly Report 2001;50:1031-1034.
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