CDC Seeks to Clear Up Anthrax Confusion

Like Congress, federal health officials have come under criticism for keeping too low a profile and not doing enough to clear up confusion and keep the public informed. CBS News medical correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports tonight how public health officials are now moving to address that.

About 40 doctors at UCLA's Children's Hospital took a break from busy rounds this afternoon to get a quick lesson on how to find anthrax.

"We'll all be experts in a short period of time, and you will certainly will be at the end of this broadcast," says Dr. Jeffrey Koplan of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--the CDC.

These are stressful days for the nation's physicians: they are being interrogated about signs, symptoms, contagion, and treatment of a disease few know anything about.

Dr. Marie Kuffner says, "It's not something we commonly see--or see in a lifetime."

This is the first time since anthrax appeared that the CDC has issued any type of guidance to the nation's doctors.

Koplan says, "We waited because accuracy is the most important thing, and we wanted to wait until we had accurate information."

The agency's silence has been a concern even for former employees watching the crisis unfold.

Former CDC investigator Dr. Philip Brachman says, "We are all concerned about the lack of information."

Today's unusual video conference is an effort to streamline information and give doctors the right diagnostic tools.

Koplan says, "The seminar focused on detecting the bacteria and finding early symptoms . . . Doctors were advised to be suspicious, test for anthrax, and report suspicions to public health officials."

The hope is that today's video conference will change the sense that the government is not organized and the doctors don't know what to do. More conferences are planned as the medical community's level of experience with anthrax grows.

©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed