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724-983-5518 or 800-346-7997

For immediate release                                                     November 2, 2001

Sharon Regional Offers Information on Biological and Biochemical Health Threats

The potential threat of bioterrorism has increased paranoia about the possibility of contracting diseases that previously had little effect on everyday American life. The threat of infection or contamination has driven some people to purchase gas masks, chemical suits and expensive antibiotics. On at least one front, these preventive measures could do more harm than good.

“Taking prescription medications of any kind, but especially antibiotics, without a specific diagnosis is an extremely bad idea,” said Sergio Segarra, M.D., Director of emergency medicine at Sharon Regional. “While fears about anthrax and other diseases are understandable, the average American still has a greater chance of being killed in a car accident or hit by lightning, than dying from anthrax, based on the exposure methods we’re seeing in the news.”

Dr. Segarra suggests:

**Talk to your physician any time you feel sick. The flu and pneumonia are more dangerous than anthrax this time of year, especially for older adults.

**Get a flu vaccine.

“By taking antibiotics as a preventive measure, people run the risk of limiting the effectiveness of those drugs later on if they need to be treated for a real illness. Secondarily, if consumers are buying drugs online or crossing the borders to buy cheaper drugs, there is some risk with regard to quality control issues for the medications,” said Dr. Segarra.

Dr. Segarra also suggests that people follow the precautions the United States Postal Service has outlined with regard to opening strange packages and try to avoid jumping to conclusions about people and events they encounter.

Nevertheless, he recommends that people find out as much as they can about chemical and biological agents that could be introduced into the general population.

“As people explore this issue, I think they will see the threats, while real, can be limited as the government and other agencies increase their vigilance,” he added.

More information on diseases like anthrax and the symptoms that accompany exposure to chemical agents can be found on the LaurusHealth site on this website. Sharon Regional makes LaurusHealth, which provides consumers with access to reliable, easy-to-understand health information and local health resources, available in the area.