In addition to an ABC News producer’s 7-month-old son who has developed the skin form of anthrax after visiting his mother’s workplace, other children may also have been exposed to lethal spores at another media outlet — American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla.
Employees of the supermarket-tabloid publishing company were encouraged to bring their kids to the office with them, since many of the chain’s reporters, editors and photographers worked long hours.
Doctors have prescribed AMI’s more than 300 employees there Ciprofloxacin, the drug of choice to combat anthrax, as a prophylactic in case they’ve been exposed to the disease.
The powerful antibiotic is also safe for children.
But that hasn’t always been the case.
“Cipro hasn’t traditionally been given to kids under 21,” said Dr. George Miceli, chief of emergency medicine at Boca Raton Community Hospital, which has tested and treated AMI employees exposed to anthrax.
The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “only recently recommended it” as a first line of defense against anthrax for kids, as well as adults, he said.
Cipro, as a broad-spectrum antibiotic which can kill a lot of bugs, can cause liver damage, severe diarrhea and even miscarriages.
FDA guidelines for treating anthrax with Cipro call for patients to take one 500-mg tablet or liquid suspension twice a day for 60 days. The unusually long period of treatment is due to anthrax spores’ ability to survive up to two months. They are remarkably resistant to heat and dryness.
With that in mind, pediatricians are prescribing a milder antibiotic — amoxicillin — as an alternative, albeit effective, drug for kids exposed to anthrax, Miceli said.
In fact, there’s been a run on the drug at pharmacies in the Boca Raton area since the anthrax outbreak there, he says, although no children there have tested positive for anthrax.
One of Miseli’s emergency-room physicians last week filled a prescription for bubble-gum-flavored pediatric amoxicillin for his 8-month-old baby, who had an ear infection. To his shock, he got the last batch available in the local area.
“The pharmacist told him he was getting the last dose of pediatric amoxicillin in the county,” he said.
Tetracyline is also effective against anthrax, pharmacists say, particularly a newer relative of tetracyline, called vibramycin.
Other drugs in the Cipro family are effective as well. They include Floxin and Levaquin, according to pharmacists.