- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 28, 2001

A Maryland Department of Agriculture lab in College Park soon will assist the state in screening for anthrax contamination, state health officials said yesterday.
The animal-health lab will do initial screening of items sent to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said state veterinarian Roger Olson.
Health officials in Baltimore said a health department lab in the city was bogged down testing for anthrax in suspicious letters and other items collected by the FBI since early October.
"It's pretty much been a 24-7 operation," said Dr. J. Mehsen Joseph, the director of laboratory administration for the state health department.
Items being tested include "powders found in envelopes and swabs taken from postal facilities and other buildings," Dr. Joseph said.
The state Agriculture Department lab at 8077 Green Mead Road will begin handling the overflow of such items within the next month, he said.
But the lab won't be ready until mid-December because some biological cabinets were damaged when a tornado ripped through College Park on Sept. 24, Dr. Joseph said.
Elsewhere, authorities in Connecticut yesterday conducted an autopsy of an 84-year-old man suspected of dying of inhalation anthrax. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later confirmed no anthrax was found in his body.
At a news conference last night, Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland said tests were negative for anthrax in the body of a elderly man who lived near the town where an elderly woman died of inhalation anthrax last week.
"The 84-year-old man from Seymour did not die from anthrax," Mr. Rowland said. "That report is conclusive from CDC and from our own public-health officials."
The case had sparked interest because of the possibility the man's mail had crossed with mail for 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren of Oxford.
Mr. Rowland said a Seymour family also was tested for the disease, but showed no signs of infection.
The unnamed man died last Wednesday at his home in Seymour, which is near Oxford, but his body wasn't discovered for several days.
Mrs. Lundgren died five days after she was admitted to the hospital, where she had sought treatment for what initially appeared to be a respiratory ailment. Tests of her home, mail, mailbox and post offices showed no sign of anthrax.
While officials in Connecticut were probing the mysterious deaths yesterday, the U.S. Postal Service in Washington was gearing up for the holiday mailing season.
Postmaster General John E. Potter taught more than 80 third-graders from Watkins Elementary School in Southeast how to address their letters to Santa Claus.
During the event at the National Postal Museum in Northeast, Mr. Potter said the threat of anthrax would not deter the Postal Service from making its appointed rounds this holiday season.
"Americans should feel comfortable mailing holiday items this year," the Postal Service said in a statement. It also said it would continue to deliver letters to Santa.
Mr. Potter used a giant envelope to show the children the proper method of addressing their mail. He emphasized the importance of putting a return address on all greeting cards.
Authorities recommended against placing cookies, candy canes or other bulky items in the letters because it could make the letters appear suspicious.
The Postal Service, which employs 9 million nationwide, has delivered 35 billion pieces of mail since September 11, officials said.
"As we always would in a wartime situation, this year we're anticipating a very big year for mail," Postal Service spokeswoman Sue Brennan said. "More people want to send greeting cards."
Yesterday, it also was reported that law enforcement authorities in Indiana have moved forward in prosecuting an anthrax hoaxer.
A man whom police say put a white substance on a bathroom counter at a truck stop and wrote "Anthrax is in here somewhere" on a stall door was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for violating his probation.
Madison Superior Court Judge Dennis Carroll ruled that David W. Jones, whom authorities say admitted the Oct. 26 hoax, violated his probation. Jones, 27, has been on probation for seven arson convictions since 1997.
A federal grand jury in Indianapolis last week indicted Jones on two counts of false reporting. If convicted of those charges, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This article based in part on wire service reports.


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