- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

A State Department employee who works at the agency's main mailing facility in Northern Virginia tested positive for inhalation anthrax yesterday, the fifth confirmed inhalation-anthrax case in the D.C. area.
The unidentified 59-year-old mail handler works at the State Department's main mail facility State Annex 32 in Sterling, Va., which gets mail in bulk from the Brentwood Mail Processing Center in Northeast. Two postal workers from Brentwood died this week from inhalation anthrax, and two others remain in serious condition with the same form of the disease at a Fairfax hospital.
D.C. officials said last night the State Department employee had never been to Brentwood.
Meanwhile, a section of the Hart Senate Office Building was closed indefinitely after more traces of anthrax were detected yesterday, displacing 12 senators.
The southwest quadrant of the Hart building houses the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, where an anthrax-laced letter was delivered more than a week ago. Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said last night anthrax was discovered in an air-conditioning filter on the ninth floor and in the stairwell leading up to the floor.
Traces of the bacteria were also found Wednesday near a freight elevator on the first floor in the same quadrant of the building. The Hart building has been closed since Oct. 17.
Despite the latest findings of anthrax in the Hart building, three House office buildings Rayburn, Cannon and O'Neill reopened yesterday.
The Ford office building, where some anthrax was found, will reopen tomorrow, and the Longworth building on the House side will open next week.
Mr. Daschle said last night he expects the Dirksen Senate Office Building to open today, too.
Anthrax scares also hit other parts of the East yesterday.
In New York, the state health department said a second NBC employee in New York "probably" contracted skin anthrax, which is a less deadly and more treatable form of the disease.
The employee "directly opened and handled" the same letter addressed to news anchor Tom Brokaw that infected co-worker Erin O'Connor, whose confirmed case of skin anthrax was announced Oct. 12.
Anthrax was found on four sorting machines at the Manhattan mail clearinghouse that handles millions of parcels every day, postal official said.
More than 5,000 postal employees work at that facility.
The sorting machines are "within the path that the previously identified tainted letters which were mailed in Trenton, N.J., Sept. 18 would have traveled," Postal Service officials said.
The Sept. 18 letters were addressed to Mr. Brokaw and the New York Post, and infected up to four employees at the two news organizations with skin anthrax.
In the Washington area, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said 7,644 postal employees, media personnel and others concerned about exposure have been tested or treated so far this week.
It was not clear how many had been tested with nasal swabs and how many people had tested positive for exposure.
Last night, an Army official disclosed a positive test for anthrax at the mailroom of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring.
Also, D.C. officials said there are now 33 local cases being evaluated as possible anthrax.
Twenty-three are listed as "low suspicion," meaning the patients have a clinical illness with symptoms that suggest it is most likely not anthrax-related. Ten others are listed as "clinical illnesses," which means the patients have some symptoms that could suggest anthrax exposure, but are not "suspected cases."
As of yesterday morning, nine persons eight postal workers and one journalist were being treated for symptoms of possible anthrax exposure, although none has tested positive for the disease.
One patient was released later in the day.
The State Department employee went to Winchester Medical Center on Wednesday with flulike symptoms, said Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman.
The man's condition was listed as "guarded" last night.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Patrick Meehan said the employee may have gotten sick from spillover from the letter sent to Mr. Daschle, which also traveled through Brentwood, or from a letter whose whereabouts are still unknown.
A second employee with flulike symptoms was being tested at a hospital late last night, Mr. Boucher said.
Since the first employee's hospitalization, the department shut down all its mail deliveries and on Wednesday began treating all of its mail handlers in the region with the antibiotic Cipro, Mr. Boucher said. The agency began testing all of its mail handlers yesterday, he said.
In all, Mr. Boucher said, 250 to 300 people are being tested for anthrax exposure, and about 80 people who work at that facility are receiving Cipro.
He also said environmental testing will be done at all of the department's mail-handling facilities that receive mail from Brentwood.
All six of the State Department mail-handling centers have been closed and mail delivery to the department's facilities suspended.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide