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Today's Health Highlights: Nov. 3, 2001

Anthrax Found in Nation's Heartland FDA Tightens Accutane Restrictions Ventilation Systems Trouble Officials

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:

Anthrax Found in Nation's Heartland

Two postal centers in Kansas City, Mo., were closed after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that anthrax was found in one of them.

More than 250 employees and visitors to the Stamp Fulfillment Services Center have been given antibiotics as a precaution, the Kansas City Star reports. No one has become ill.

The 300,000-square-foot center and a smaller, adjacent one were shut down for decontamination. No spores of the deadly germ were found in the smaller one, the Star reports.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that traces of anthrax were discovered in mail sorting machines and a dusting machine at the Morgan Processing and Distribution Center in Manhattan.

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FDA Tightens Accutane Restrictions

Women taking the acne drug Accutane soon will face tough new restrictions meant to ensure they don't become pregnant while taking the medication.

Severe birth defects and even fetal death have been linked to Accutane, known generically as isotretinoin, a drug approved to treat the most serious forms of acne, HealthDay reported.

Current regulations require that a woman test negative for pregnancy twice before a doctor can prescribe a course of Accutane, and pregnancy tests must remain negative while she takes the drug. Women also must agree to use two separate forms of effective birth control.

But starting next year, pharmacists can no longer accept phone or electronic prescriptions or refill orders for Accutane. Only paper prescriptions with a special sticker will be accepted. Also, prescriptions will last only one month instead of six.

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Ventilation Systems Trouble Officials

Senior health officials are worried that ventilation systems in the nations buildings are vulnerable to bioterrorists, and are concerned further that the U.S. government isn't addressing this potential weak spot.

A doctor and close advisor to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson tells the Washington Post that a scenario in which anthrax is released through the ventilation of a large public building "keeps me awake at night."

Concerns rose after tests showed that a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle contained finely milled spores of anthrax, the Post reports. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota, told the paper that releasing such a microscopic germ would be "about as hard as spilling a glass of milk."

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