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Stressed out by attacks? You aren't alone

More than 40 percent of American adults reported at least one substantial symptom of stress in the first few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and nine out of 10 had some stress reactions, according to a new survey.

These included having difficulty concentrating, feeling very upset, feeling irritable, having disturbing memories or dreams, and having trouble sleeping.

Parents reported that about one-third of children aged 5 and older displayed one or more symptoms of stress and that nearly half expressed concern about their own safety or that of a loved one in the first days after the attacks.

"We found that people everywhere were experiencing substantial levels of stress," said Dr. Mark Shuster, an analyst for the RAND health-care think tank and lead author of the national study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Those disproportionately affected include women, minorities, people with previous emotional problems and those who watched extensive television coverage on Sept. 11.

Hunt back on for elusive letter

WASHINGTON _ The State Department prepared to pick through three weeks' worth of unopened mail, searching for an anthrax-tainted letter they think passed through the department's mail center.

It wasn't clear why that search had not yet begun, given that health officials long have suspected that an undiscovered letter was almost certainly to blame for a State Department mail handler becoming infected.

More than two weeks ago, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was a virtual certainty that another letter was lurking. But this week, the State Department said it didn't begin looking sooner for such a letter because officials weren't yet convinced one existed.

For its part, the FBI said it didn't press for a quicker search because it doubts that a letter will be found, an assumption disputed by both the State Department and the CDC.

BEWARE THE ALTERNATIVES: There is no evidence that alternative medicines, including some promoted on the Internet, are effective in treating anthrax or other biological agents, a leading government scientist said Wednesday.

Certain natural treatments could interfere with proven antibiotics, and there is little reason to believe they hold promise in responding to bioterrorist attacks, said Dr. Stephen E. Straus, director of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.

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