- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced yesterday the FBI has begun a murder investigation into the deaths of two D.C. postal employees who worked at the Brentwood mail center in Northeast, D.C. which tested positive for anthrax spores.
Mr. Williams confirmed that Joseph P. Curseen, 47, and Thomas Lee Morris Jr., 55, both suffered from inhalation anthrax.
"We know the two deaths are confirmed for the inhalation of anthrax," Mr. Williams said. "The Brentwood facility tested positive."
Fourteen of 29 areas tested at Brentwood were found to have anthrax spores.
The criminal investigation unit of the FBI's Washington field office is heading up the probe into the deaths. It also is leading the investigation into the anthrax-laced letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle that came through the Brentwood facility, an FBI spokesman said.
"Brentwood has become a crime scene because someone has been murdered there," said Deborah Willhite, senior vice president for government relations and public policy for the Postal Service. "The enemy is whoever sent those letters and murdered two people."
Dr. Ivan Walks, director of the D.C. health department, said that of 20 possible anthrax cases linked to the Brentwood mail processing center, four have been confirmed, four cases are listed as suspicious and 12 cases are listed as not very suspicious.
He said two other Brentwood Postal Service employees being treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital Center are still in serious condition.
Dr. Walks said that all employees, contractors or anyone who came in contact with the mail processing area in the back of the Brentwood facility will be treated. He said people who may have been exposed should go to D.C. General Hospital to receive a 10-day supply of Cipro.
That includes postal workers, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the D.C. health department, and anyone who attended a news conference in the Brentwood building last week after the CDC mistakenly ruled the building safe.
Both the mayor and his mother, a longtime postal employee, had visited two post offices last Friday to show their support for postal workers, and Mr. Williams waited in line at D.C. General yesterday evening with others for the antibiotics.
Mr. Williams said he believed that the situation was mishandled, and that greater precautions should have been taken to treat the postal workers sooner and prevent others from being exposed.
"We should have done things a lot better," the mayor said. "I don't think it is helpful to be pointing fingers as a government agency."
Members of Congress and their employees were tested and treated and their offices closed while they were being tested for anthrax contamination last week. But the CDC said that the postal workers who processed the mail could not be exposed, which delayed testing and treatment until Sunday.
Health and law-enforcement officials believe that the anthrax spores contaminated the mail processing center from the spores in the letter sent to Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. The areas contaminated processed the mail for the offices at the U.S. Capitol.
Dr. Rima Khabazz, director of viral diseases branch of the Center for Infections Diseases at the CDC, said that it is not scientifically possible for an anthrax-tainted letter to contaminate another piece of mail just by crossing past it. Based on other instances of anthrax-laced letters sent through the mail, she said it is not clear how the anthrax-tainted letter could have contaminated so many at Brentwood.
"We do not know. We are doing an investigation," Dr. Khabazz said.
Health and law-enforcement sources speculate that the machinery used to sort the mail could have crushed anthrax-tainted letters and sent out a fine dust of spores onto the equipment. The dust could have circulated through the room and into other work areas.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said police detectives are assisting FBI agents in the investigation.
"That's the best way to go," Chief Ramsey said. "It is beyond the capacity of a local jurisdiction to properly investigate."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide