- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK A hospital worker with a mysterious case of inhalation anthrax died early today, the nation's fourth fatality in a month of bioterrorism.
Also today, a post office spokesman said an employee at a second regional mail facility in New Jersey was suspected to have skin anthrax.
Kathy T. Nguyen, 61, died three days after checking herself into Lenox Hill Hospital and being diagnosed as New York City's first case of the inhaled form of the disease.
Nguyen's illness, and that of a New Jersey woman who contracted the less serious skin anthrax, complicated the investigation by raising the possibility that tainted letters are contaminating other mail or that the spores are sickening people by means other than the mail.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said worries about “cross-contamination'' anthrax spores sticking to pieces of mail at postal facilities have grown with the new cases.
Dr. Fauci said preliminary tests show no anthrax at the hospital where Nguyen worked and “that's part of the mystery.''
“So all bets are off and we really need to do the public health officials, the forensic group has to do a real full court press on trying to track this down. This is critical,'' he said on NBC's “Today'' show.
The latest victims raised the number of confirmed anthrax cases to 17 nationwide since the outbreak began in early October. Ten have the inhaled form, including the four who died. The others have less-severe skin infections.
Four of those skin-anthrax cases and two more suspected cases are linked to city media outlets.
Ms. Nguyen, who lived alone and commuted to the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital by subway from the Bronx, worked in a basement supply room. Until recently, the space had included a mailroom, but there was no evidence of any suspicious letter, and the first environmental samples from the hospital were negative.
“Almost everyone in the hospital came in contact with her,'' because she delivered supplies to various departments and offices, said Thomas Rich, a co-worker.
Lenox Hill Hospital spokeswoman Ann Silverman said Ms. Nguyen died early today. She would not provide any other details.
Up to 2,000 hospital workers, patients and visitors who have been to the hospital since Oct. 11 are being offered antibiotics, officials said yesterday. The hospital was closed and other hospitals in the city were alerted to take precautions and report any suspicions.
Ms. Nguyen had been sedated and put on a ventilator and was too sick to help the health and criminal investigators trying to find the source of her infection by reconstructing her social life, commute and routines at the hospital.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said today preliminary anthrax tests on Ms. Nguyen's home also were negative.
“The president expresses his condolences and sympathy to the family of the woman who died as a result of inhalation anthrax. This is an event of concern and the president is discussing it with his team,'' Mr. Fleischer said.
Ms. Nguyen fled her native Vietnam 24 years ago, penniless and alone, and came to the United States with the aid of a soldier who was a New York City police officer.
Neighbors and co-workers described her as someone who loved to cook and shop. She lived alone and regarded her neighbors as her family since her only son died in a car crash years ago. She was divorced from her husband, who friends said lived in Germany.

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