- The Washington Times - Friday, November 23, 2001

OXFORD, Conn. (AP) Federal investigators yesterday scoured the home of the nation's fifth anthrax fatality, sifting through trash and mail in an attempt to explain how the 94-year-old woman contracted the disease.
Ottilie Lundgren, who died Wednesday, gave up driving years ago and rarely ventured from her home without the help of friends and neighbors.
Investigators trying to pinpoint Mrs. Lundgren's whereabouts in the final weeks of her life have interviewed Bill and Peg Crowther, close friends who often drove the widow to her doctors' appointments.
Mrs. Crowther, a former nurse, kept a daily log of the elderly woman's health that may help trace the onset of the disease. Mrs. Crowther began taking notes this summer when Mrs. Lundgren grew listless after the death of a friend.
"She appeared to be not suffering from anything you wouldn't expect to see in a 94-year-old woman," Mrs. Crowther said. Mrs. Lundgren's last doctor's appointment was Oct. 26 for a pneumonia shot.
Last week, Mrs. Crowther noticed her friend was ailing; on Nov. 14, "she did not feel good, she ached all over," Mrs. Crowther said.
Mrs. Lundgren's temperature spiked to 101 degrees the next day. Mrs. Crowther said she gave Mrs. Lundgren some Tylenol and tea and put her to bed.
Mrs. Lundgren was admitted to Griffin Hospital in Derby on Nov. 16 and died five days later. An autopsy Wednesday night confirmed anthrax as the cause of death.
It was not clear whether investigators or doctors were able to discuss Mrs. Lundgren's case with her before she died. Her personal physician, Dr. Stephen Spear, would not comment on any conversations with the patient.
In yesterday's editions of the New York Times, Dr. Kenneth Dobuler, chief of medicine at the hospital, said doctors told her she might have anthrax and asked about her activities. She reported nothing out of the ordinary in her mail and said she did not garden, he said. Anthrax sometimes is found naturally in soil.
Nearly two dozen investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have joined crews from the FBI and state health department at Mrs. Lundgren's modest ranch home in this rural community.
"Each and every thing in that household will be looked at," state police spokesman J. Paul Vance said yesterday.
Friends remembered Mrs. Lundgren as warm and devoted to her husband, Carl, a prominent lawyer who died in 1977 after battling multiple sclerosis.
Mrs. Lundgren had a penchant for a good mystery novel, and loved nothing more than trying to solve the mystery before getting to the end, friends said. They couldn't help but note the irony now that her home has became the latest focus in the puzzling anthrax crisis. "She sure would be getting a chuckle out of all this," Mr. Crowther said.
Active in the Immanuel Lutheran Church, Mrs. Lundgren had her pastor at her bedside when she died. "She was a woman of great faith," said church secretary Cathy LaFrance. "She wouldn't have wanted to cause all this trouble."
Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland said the early investigation was focusing on Mrs. Lundgren's mail. With the exception of a New York hospital worker whose fatal case of inhalation anthrax is also a mystery, recent cases have centered on letters sent to media outlets and members of Congress.
Anthrax tests were taken Wednesday morning at a post office in neighboring Seymour and at a larger mail distribution center in Wallingford. Mail delivered in Oxford is processed at those two sites. Results are expected in the next two days.
About 50 workers from Seymour and more than 1,100 from Wallingford have been offered the antibiotic Cipro as a precaution. About three-fourths of the workers have accepted the drug, postal officials said.


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