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San Diego To Train Mail Carriers To Deliver Anti-Bioterror Drugs

Audio

Aired 8/22/11

Mail carriers are already tasked with making rounds in extreme conditions. Now they’re training to deliver emergency medications to San Diego County residents in the event of a bioterror attack -- like anthrax.

If San Diego was ever hit with a bioterror attack, it could be postal workers to your rescue. They'll soon be training to deliver emergency antibiotics to all 3.2 million county residents, plus visitors, in the event of a bioterrorist attack, like one involving anthrax, plague or ricin.

Jack Walsh, coordinator for the county's Counterbioterrorism and Preparedness Task Force, said in a full-scale anthrax attack, antibiotics would need to be delivered from the federal Strategic National Stockpile to residents within 48 hours.

“Signs and symptoms for anthrax can show as early as 48 hours. So the survival rate for anthrax once signs and symptoms have popped up is not very good," said Walsh. "If we can get meds delivered, then we can save 98 percent of the people.”

In an anthrax attack, the county would get doxycycline and ciprofloxacin antibiotics. "And that would come to the county’s warehouse where the Postal Service would come and pick it up and take it to their delivery units, load it up into their trucks and deliver it to everybody’s address," Walsh explained.

Each postal worker who volunteers for the training would have a police or security escort, and be equipped with a mask and gloves. They'd be given a supply of emergency medications for their families in advance, said Walsh.

San Diego is one of five cities in the U.S. selected for a grant to pay for initial training and exercises.

"There’s a low probability of a bioterror attack, but a high likelihood of mass fatalities if we’re not prepared," he said.

In 2001, just days after the 9/11 attacks, anthrax-laced letters that were sent to congressional offices and media companies killed five people.

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