Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education Eases Anthrax Fears Calls to Agencies Have Subsided

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education Eases Anthrax Fears Calls to Agencies Have Subsided

Article excerpt

Byline: P. Douglas Filaroski, Times-Union staff writer

Patricia Frank only half-jokingly explains why figures suggest the First Coast is on the downside of the anthrax scare.

"Maybe we've talked to everyone," said Frank, a Duval County Health Department spokeswoman whose agency is fielding far fewer anthrax calls these days.

A month ago, the agency's telephone rang off the hook. People called about about suspicious substances and wanted to know where they could get the antibiotics.

"I think education -- through the media, over the phone -- I think it all has helped a lot," said Frank, who speculated that barring an outbreak, fear may have subsided.

Yesterday, the state health lab in Jacksonville received 60 to 70 samples from authorities for anthrax testing, compared with 100 a day in late October.

The samples come from police and fire officials investigating reports of suspicious powdery substances from residents across North Florida.

The lab's business peaked about the third week of October, after the FBI asked Americans to be on high alert for another terrorist strike.

A second, smaller spike coincided with another FBI warning about potential terrorist activity near Halloween.

Gordon Bass, a chief with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said calls since after the first FBI warning Oct. 13 are down about 75 percent, to about 25 a day.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue's hazardous materials team is responding to about a third as many calls since the busiest time, Lt. Glenda Hopkins said.

"I think people are being a little more educated and informed about what to look for," Hopkins said. "Things like crushed-up crackers and baby powder are not being called in anymore."

There have been no confirmed cases in Florida since the Oct. 4 discovery at a South Florida tabloid publishing company. …

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