- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Two D.C. postal workers and a State Department mail handler who have been hospitalized after contracting inhalation anthrax last month are showing signs of improvement, officials said yesterday.
The State Department employee, who works at the department's off-site mail facility in Sterling, Va., is in serious condition after he was moved out of the hospital's intensive-care unit over the weekend. Two postal employees who work at the Brentwood Mail Processing Facility in Northeast are also in serious condition, but both men are talking and breathing on their own, hospital officials said.
About a dozen other Brentwood postal workers who had been hospitalized with anthraxlike symptoms have been released from area hospitals after tests showed none of them had anthrax, local health officials said.
"Everyone has been tested and none of them came back positive for anthrax," said Mary Anderson with the Montgomery County Health Department.
Meanwhile yesterday, the list of contaminated federal mailrooms grew as traces of anthrax were found in two of the 214 rental mailboxes in the Pentagon. The finding marked the second time the nation's military headquarters has been victimized in the wave of the recent terrorist attacks. One hundred and eighty-nine civilians and military personnel were killed September 11 when a hijacked passenger plane crashed into the Pentagon.
Pentagon officials said yesterday one of the contaminated mailboxes was being rented by a Navy sailor, while the other was not assigned, officials said. The sailor was being tested for possible anthrax exposure at Bethesda Naval Medical Center yesterday, officials said.
The post office, which is used by thousands of civilian and military workers, was decontaminated over the weekend after test results came back positive for the potentially deadly bacteria on Saturday. Subsequent tests after the decontamination showed no signs of anthrax, said Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman.
"Retesting results were all negative," Mr. Flood said. "All renters of the mailboxes have been notified of the findings."
Thousands of the estimated 23,000 military and civilian personnel who work at the Pentagon use the post office, which is located in the building's shopping area, where only workers with passes are allowed.
It was not clear last night whether the spores originated at the Pentagon or in pieces of mail forwarded from the Brentwood post office, a major mail-routing facility for the District and the federal government.
Brentwood processed the anthrax-tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, earlier last month. The Postal Service shut down the Brentwood facility Oct. 21 after two workers were diagnosed with inhalation anthrax and two others died from the same form of the disease.
Government agencies moved to test buildings around the country for presence of anthrax spores.
Spores also have turned up overseas, the State Department said yesterday. A preliminary test on a substance found at the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, has registered positive for anthrax, officials said.
So far, anthrax has been confirmed at only two U.S. overseas missions Peru and Lithuania since spores were found in several State Department mailrooms in the District last week. The diplomatic pouch service was suspended Oct. 26 after the State Department worker fell ill with inhalation anthrax.
Also yesterday, officials with the Food and Drug Administration said tests on its mailrooms that initially tested positive for anthrax have now come back negative. The department has since advised its mailroom workers to stop taking antibiotics.
The FBI yesterday said it will go over 350,000 pieces of mail that were sent to Lima, Ohio, for decontamination. The mail is now in a Springfield warehouse.
The latest anthrax-related developments in the Washington area came as the Longworth House Office Building reopened for the first time since Oct. 17, when six buildings were shut down amid fears of contamination by the Daschle letter.
Longworth is the second of the three House office buildings to reopen since the contamination; however, three offices remain sealed off for decontamination. The Ford House Office Building was expected to reopen today.
The Hart Senate Office Building will remain closed indefinitely as experts yesterday questioned the effectiveness of a plan to clean the building with chlorine dioxide gas. The Hart building is where the Daschle letter was opened Oct. 15.
Senate leaders hoped to use the gas to decontaminate the entire building in time to reopen it Nov. 13. The building houses half of the Senate. Government and private scientists reviewing the plan expressed concerns yesterday that because of the vastness of the nine-story building, variations in humidity or temperature or the mixture of the gas might affect how uniformly the bacteria-killing gas would work, said officials with the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Among their comments was that this was a good technique, but EPA should take the time to do it right," said Tina Kreisher, an EPA spokeswoman.
Lt. Dan Nichols of the Capitol Police said last night the stairwell and some sites near the freight elevator in the Hart building where spores were found were expected to be cleaned with anti-bacterial foam late yesterday.
It was not clear how Mr. Daschle's two-story suite and a filter in the building's ventilation system will be cleaned. The liquid would ruin paper, making it impractical for use in Mr. Daschle's office.
Also yesterday, scientists at the Mayo Clinic announced they have developed a DNA test that may identify anthrax spores in a letter, building or person in 30 minutes, instead of days.
Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center are also developing a medical test that can diagnose inhaled anthrax well before symptoms appear.
Doctors are hopeful the second test, called LeuTech, will help identify victims before they become seriously ill, like the four Americans who recently died of inhalation anthrax. Researchers today are expected to begin enrolling 500 persons recently exposed to anthrax in the study.
So far, there are 17 confirmed cases of anthrax infections nationwide. Four persons have died of inhalation anthrax, while three others in Virginia remain hospitalized. A mailroom worker in Florida and two postal workers in New Jersey, all of whom have inhalation anthrax, have been released from the hospital.
Seven persons have contracted skin anthrax, the less severe form of the disease.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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