Pick up any newspaper or magazine these days or turn on the radio or television, and you are unable to escape the doom and gloom forecasts that many media outlets are reporting.
But before you let any dire predictions get the best of you, engage in some periodic reality checks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long considered one of the premier clearinghouses on health and safety information in the world, will help you get through this trying time with the facts. The site, www.cdc.gov, offers a wealth of credible public health information, updated daily. Moreover, the site helps dispel many of the health myths spreading around the country and seeks to keep researchers, medical professionals, media representatives and consumers informed of any cutting edge science developments.
LOOK AND FEEL: Once you visit the CDC site, you will find yourself wishing that more sites on the Web followed the same organized and efficient format. Designed with ease of navigation and the capability for quick updating, the CDC site's home page features a Spotlight section that highlights recent public health news (the first bullet in this section, as you would expect, leads readers to a special anthrax information page).
Also on the home page are information about the CDC's organization and mission; a link to data and statistics on a range of health conditions; information on grant and cooperative funding opportunities; and a list of available publications, software and other products.
If you have trouble finding the information you need, take advantage of the site's search function.
A QUICK TOUR: As the fear of anthrax contamination spreads, so does paranoia. There is a real risk for those in certain occupations these days, but it is important to arm yourself with the facts by reading the section called Anthrax Information and Public Health Emergency Preparedness & Response. Here you will find a treasure trove of facts on many bioterrorism issues. A Frequently Asked Questions segment answers such questions as whether nasal swabs are sufficient for diagnosing anthrax (answer: no) and why only a few days of Cipro are administered after a known or expected exposure. (Answer: Some people do not need a full course of treatment because further investigation reveals they have not been exposed.)
To delve even further into the potential nightmare bioterrorism situations, read up on botulism, pneumonic plague and smallpox.
The CDC site also offers resources on numerous nonterrorist-related health issues. The site covers travelers' health, provides fact sheets and has information on hundreds of illnesses and many other important public health topics.
LINKS: Where useful, the CDC site provides links to other reliable Web sites (many of which are federally funded).
FUNDING: One of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC is federally funded.