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Flu, Anthrax Share Symptoms But Have Key Differences

Flu, Anthrax Share Symptoms But Have Key Differences

By Jim Caldwell, Army News Service.

Fort Monroe, Virginia -- (ANS) October 31, 2001-- With the approach of flu season, an Army doctor said people who contract the virus may instead fear they are infected with anthrax.

"That's because the symptoms of flu are similar to the early symptoms of those reported in people infected by the terror weapon," said Col. Bernard DeKoning, command surgeon for the Training and Doctrine Command.

"So, not all symptoms of 'the flu' are caused by influenza or anthrax," he said. "A subtle, but perhaps helpful distinction is that anthrax normally doesn't cause a runny nose or a 'productive cough.'"

A productive cough brings up mucous or drainage.

"One must keep in mind that 'the flu' can be caused by any number of viruses," he said. "'The flu' comprises symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue and/or respiratory discomfort caused by any number of strains of influenza and other viruses."

Only the most common strains of flu have vaccines against them, DeKoning explained. Flu itself sometimes can be dangerous, especially among the elderly and people with certain medical conditions.

Sniffles and a productive cough are not 100 percent foolproof indication that a person has not been inflicted with anthrax, either, the doctor said.

DeKoning said that people who choose to see a doctor because they do not know whether they have anthrax or the flu should retrace their activities over the past week by asking themselves the following questions:

"Your doctor will find the answers to these questions very helpful," DeKoning said. "Based on your answers, your doctor may want to consult other colleagues and perhaps perform some tests such as a nasal swab or a blood test."

In the Army, flu vaccinations will be carried out just as they are every year.

"This year, a slight delay in influenza vaccine delivery has been experienced," DeKoning said. "Upon receipt of the first shipment of vaccine at military installations, vaccination of mission critical personnel and high-risk medical individuals will begin.

"It is anticipated that sufficient influenza vaccine will be available by late November to meet all military beneficiary requirements," DeKoning said.

DeKoning said anthrax vaccine is currently not available for civilian use. Besides, inoculation against anthrax consists of six shots over 18 months, plus a booster shot every year after that.

"We should all remember that the chance of any of us coming in contact with anthrax is extremely small," he said. "Yes, we all need to be vigilant about our surroundings. However, we also need to live our lives, enjoy our freedoms and not become paralyzed by the fear of anthrax."

(Editor's note: Jim Caldwell is a writer for the TRADOC News Service.)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).