Is it flu or anthrax?

Wednesday, October 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Federal doctors are working around-the-clock to determine how many people with suspicious symptoms really have anthrax. Because anthrax symptoms are a lot like flu symptoms, those cases are also getting more attention.

But how can you tell the difference? News on Six reporter Glenda Silvey looked for answers. Hillcrest Medical Center held a community awareness program on that very subject Wednesday, called "Is It Flu or Is It Anthrax?"

Doctors say Oklahomans should be more concerned about flu. The Wilson’s get flu shots every year, because he has pulmonary disease and both are over age 65. This year, the anthrax threat has created a new question. Sue Wilson: "Well it is a concern, because how are you going to know if it's flu or if it's anthrax?" Symptoms of both diseases are the same, though anthrax causes more extreme respiratory distress.

But health officials say the threat of anthrax in Oklahoma is remote, at least so far. Dr Steven Landgarten, Hillcrest Medical Dir: "You live in Oklahoma, and your kids were sick last week with a cold, and you've got headache and you've got muscle aches and you feel lousy, chances are you've got a cold or flu. It's probably not anthrax."

Dr Landgarten strongly recommends the flu vaccine for everyone, particularly those at high risk. "And indeed, I guarantee you, I'll bet you a dollar, the flu will kill 100 times more people this year in the U.S. than will anthrax." Tulsa's Visiting Nurse Association is one of several agencies now administering flu shots. People have called about anthrax. Adrianne Yocham, VNA: "We've had several questions about that. We've also had numerous questions about small pox, which we never got those questions before the terror attacks.

Dr Landgarten says if anything unusual has happened to you, if you received a suspicious mailing, for example, or passed through a post office in Washington DC, it's perfectly appropriate to ask your doctor to be tested.