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Decade after anthrax attacks, worry over stockpile

Anthrax vaccine - check. Antibiotics - check. A botulism treatment - check. Smallpox vaccine - check.

Ten years after the anthrax attacks brought home the reality of bioterrorism, the nation has a stockpile of some basic tools to fight back against a few of the threats that worry defense experts the most.

These defenses are not just gathering dust awaiting the next attack. In August, a Minneapolis hospital dipped into the stockpile to treat a critically ill patient - a tourist who, somewhere on his Midwest vacation, had the extraordinary bad luck to breathe anthrax spores that naturally linger in the dirt in parts of the country. The man, who survived, received a kind of medication not available in October 2001 when anthrax spores sent through the mail killed five people and sickened 17.

But there's wide concern that the nation's arsenal hasn't grown fast enough. A decade later, there are no treatments for a number of bugs on the worry list, and little to offer for other threats like a radiation emergency. Even a long-promised next-generation anthrax vaccine, that would be easier to produce, hasn't arrived yet. Nor is there information on how to treat children.

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