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ANCHORAGE - If there was mass exposure to anthrax, in-state supplies of Cipro could treat about 5,000 people until emergency medical supplies arrived, a state health official said.
Cipro is one of four antibiotics used to treat people who have been exposed to anthrax, but it is the only drug found to be effective against all strains of the deadly bacteria.
A recent survey of private pharmacies in Alaska found there are 24,672 Cipro pills, as well as 70,331 of doxycyline, 100,846 of amoxicillin pills and 14,804 of tetracycline - other common antibiotics used to treat anthrax exposure.
In the event of mass anthrax exposure, supplies of Cipro and the other antibiotics are enough to hold the state over until medical supplies arrived from the federal Centers for Disease Control's National Pharmaceutical Stockpile program, said Dr. John Middaugh, the state's chief epidemiologist.
The CDC has 400 tons of antibiotics and medical supplies in government warehouses around the United States - enough to fill eight Boeing 747s. The agency won't reveal the locations of the warehouses for security reasons. Alaska health officials don't know the location of the nearest warehouse, or even if there is one in Alaska.
Middaugh said if there was mass exposure in Alaska, 50 tons of medical supplies in a push-pack would be loaded onto 747s and could arrive within 12 hours. Each push-pack contains enough supplies to treat about 300,000 people, said Dr. Beth Funk, state medical epidemiologist.
The CDC for the first time tried out the pharmaceutical stockpile program on Sept. 11 after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Medical supplies arrived in New York within seven hours of being deployed, the agency said.
Health officials have had a lot of experience in Alaska dealing quickly with health emergencies, including exposure to rabies, botulism and paralytic shellfish poisoning, Middaugh said.
"The bottom line is that we can logistically do it quickly," he said.