- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Postal workers, who suffered from such side effects as drowsiness, nausea and migraine headaches from taking the antibiotic Cipro to fight off anthrax, are pleased that the D.C. Health Department switched them to doxycycline. But they have little trust in city and federal officials.
"From what I've heard, the new medication is better. We are all coming back to get our new supply, but we still need to be better informed," said Harry Foster, 64, a 45-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service.
Concerned about the long-term effects of Cipro, health officials yesterday switched everyone to the milder antibiotic doxycycline. Approximately 6,300 postal workers, who received a 10-day supply of Cipro last week, must return to the anthrax-screening center at D.C. General Hospital this week to get a 50-day supply of the new antibiotic to continue their treatment.
The Postal Service is busing about 250 employees per hour to D.C. General, where they are being briefed on anthrax exposure by a team of doctors from the District's health office, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and mental health specialists. They are then moved to an area manned by 10 pharmacists, who discuss with them their medical history and ask pertinent health questions before they are given the pills.
The side effects from Cipro, manufactured by the German-based Bayer AG, caused some postal employees to be hospitalized. "I began to have migraines. My skin itched. I had a fever and my equilibrium was off, I couldn't stand up," said Rena Budd, 41, a U.S. postal union representative. Mrs. Budd said she was in Holy Cross Hospital all last week for complications from the drug before she was taken to Washington Hospital Center on Saturday.
Postal officials said the CDC, in Atlanta, recommended the change in medication, although it had been reported that the change was due to limited supplies of Cipro.
"They have been switched because doxycycline is a better medicine, proven to be safe over long-term use and more readily available," said Dan DeMiglio, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.
Mr. DeMiglio said doctors informed him that 60 days on Cipro could cause kidney failure and other organ and tissue damage. One worker went into anaphylactic shock, nearly causing his death, after taking Cipro, D.C. Health Director Dr. Ivan C. A. Walks told The Washington Times last week .
An anaphylactic shock is a lethal allergic reaction that occurs in people who are highly sensitive to foreign elements in the body. It causes swelling, fever, acceleration of the heart rate and other symptoms.
"That is exactly why we stopped giving it out. It had nothing to do with limited supply," Mr. DeMiglio said.
Many postal employees have contacted Mrs. Budd about the slow response of the federal government to close down and test postal facilities in the metropolitan Washington area for anthrax exposure. Two postal employees from the Brentwood mail-processing facility died last week from anthrax before the building was shut down and tested.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, received an anthrax-laced letter in the mail that came through the Brentwood facility two weeks before the deaths of the two workers.
"We don't trust them because it seems they know just as much about anthrax and treatment as we do," Mrs. Budd said.
"They should be more concerned about the safety of the employees and less about getting the mail out."
Any postal workers who either work in the Brentwood mail-processing facility or receive mail in bulk from the facility should be screened for anthrax exposure and get their introductory supply or continuation supply of antibiotics. Workers from processing stations deemed safe after testing do not need further medication.
The D.C. General screening facility will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the week. Any federal workers from the 14 agencies that have tested positive for anthrax will also be eligible for medication.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide