- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

Two Washington-area postal workers have been diagnosed with inhalation anthrax and two more employees at the same facility have died of symptoms consistent with the disease, officials said today as the nation grappled with an unprecedented bioterrorism threat.

Dr. Ivan Walks, the city's chief health official, also said authorities are investigating as many as nine more cases that have aroused concern. He said he did not know how many of the nine were postal workers or how many were hospitalized.

The disclosures came as postal workers by the dozens lined up for testing, and city authorities urged anyone connected with the affected Brentwood central mail facility to come forward immediately for screening.

“This is a different day,'' the city health official said at a news conference.

He said the unidentified man diagnosed with the disease was hospitalized in suburban Virginia, at the same facility where another postal worker was diagnosed over the weekend.

He said authorities were conducting tests on clinical samples from the two postal workers who died.

In one case, he said, preliminary blood testing had further aroused suspicion that anthrax may have played a role.

In the case of the second person, he said, “We do not have even the positive blood cultures … but his clinical course is highly suspicious.''

The disclosures marked a troubling turn in the nation's bioterrorism scare.

“Anyone who was working in that back postal area during the last 11 days, you must today immediately come here … to receive prophylactic medication and to be evaluated.''

Deborah Willhite, a Postal Service senior vice president, said there are roughly 2,000 employees at that Brentwood postal facility in Washington.

City officials made their startling disclosures as the Capitol reopened but congressional offices remained shuttered for environmental testing.

And nearly three weeks since anthrax first surfaced in Florida, the government announced that federal money from the Superfund environmental program will be used to clean up the headquarters of a Boca Raton-based tabloid company where one man died of the disease.

Ms. Willhite issued an unusual plea to reporters to extend prayers to the families of the dead postal workers, rather than barrage them with questions. “Give them time to grieve and to take care of their own business,'' she said.

She said the affected facility would remain closed as long as it takes to make sure it's safe again.

Officials over the weekend had said that a 57-year-old postal worker, Leroy Richmond, had been hospitalized with inhalation anthrax in serious and stable condition.

Officials did not provide the names of any of the other affected workers.

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