Comparing Electronic News Media Reports of Potential Bioterrorism-Related Incidents Involving Unknown White Powder to Reports Received by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: U.S.A., 2009–2011†

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Abstract

There have been periodic electronic news media reports of potential bioterrorism-related incidents involving unknown substances (often referred to as “white powder”) since the 2001 intentional dissemination of Bacillus anthracis through the U.S. Postal System. This study reviewed the number of unknown “white powder” incidents reported online by the electronic news media and compared them with unknown “white powder” incidents reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during a 2-year period from June 1, 2009 and May 31, 2011. Results identified 297 electronic news media reports, 538 CDC reports, and 384 FBI reports of unknown “white powder.” This study showed different unknown “white powder” incidents captured by each of the three sources. However, the authors could not determine the public health implications of this discordance.

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