Media reps try to quell anthrax fear

BOCA RATON, FL: Lingering unease from September's terrorist

attacks, combined with the recent anthrax crisis in Florida, is causing

communications turmoil for two US corporations.



The anthrax death of a journalist at The Sun tabloid last week sparked

fears among readers that the disease could be contracted from handling

the current issue. Concerned consumers reportedly called various outlets

- including supermarkets where the paper is sold, and the Larry King

Live show - asking about the possible dangers of buying The Sun.



Sun publisher American Media responded by impressing on media outlets

that the paper is not printed at its Florida offices, and therefore had

no contact with infected areas, and that anthrax is not contagious.

According to some sources, American Media CEO David Pecker even asked

the Centers for Disease Control to issue a statement reassuring the

public.



The anthrax concern also caused a PR whirlwind for Michigan-based

Bioport Corporation, the only US manufacturer of the anthrax

vaccine.



Bioport spokeswoman Kim Brennen Root estimates that she has fielded at

least 20 media inquiries a day from outlets such as The Wall Street

Journal, the AP, CNN, and MSNBC, but the majority of calls have come

from concerned citizens wanting to buy the vaccine.



Within three days of the September 11 attacks, the company received

1,000 phone calls and quickly set up a consumer hotline to inform the

public that the US government owns all of the current supply of the

vaccine, for use on military troops.



Bioport's chief message is: "All the anthrax vaccine stockpile that

exists is owned by the Department of Defense, and is for the protection

of the men and women who are risking their lives to fight for our

freedom."



Although Bioport had formerly worked with a small PR firm in Lansing,

MI, Root is currently handling all the inquiries single-handedly.



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