- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Two local post offices and a Capitol Hill police bomb-squad office yesterday joined the growing list of federal agencies that have tested positive for anthrax exposure, as investigators continued to trace the source of tainted letters that have been delivered along the East Coast.
Traces of anthrax spores were found at the Friendship Station Post Office in Northwest and a post office in a building at 45005 Aviation Drive near Washington Dulles International Airport, prompting officials to shut down the centers for decontamination and order workers to take antibiotics.
Capitol Hill police said spores of the deadly bacteria also were found in a bomb-squad office in the Ford House Office Building. In that case, police believe that spillover from the contaminated Hart Senate Office Building is responsible for the traces, said Lt. Dan Nichols, a Capitol Police spokesman.
There have been 17 confirmed cases of anthrax infection nationwide since the outbreak began this month. Ten of the victims have inhalation anthrax, three of whom have died. Seven others have skin anthrax, the highly treatable form of the disease.
At least 8,800 U.S. Postal Service workers nationwide have been tested for exposure. About 13,300 postal workers are being treated. Some 200 postal facilities are being tested for contamination. Six others have been temporarily shut down, according to the Postal Service.
Three letters one sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, another to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and a third to the New York Post have tested positive for anthrax exposure. Mr. Daschle's letter was processed at the Brentwood Road Mail Processing Facility in Northeast, where four workers became infected with inhalation anthrax, two of whom have died.
Yesterday, Mr. Daschle said the letter sent to him contained "a couple of grams of anthrax." But he discounted earlier reports that the grams amounted to billions of spores. "We haven't been told any figure. I don't think it's possible to do a spore count," said Mr. Daschle.
A person must breathe in 8,000 to 10,000 spores, which can fit on the head of pin, to contract inhalation anthrax.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the anthrax-laced letters widened yesterday after federal and local health officials learned that a hospital worker in New York had contracted inhalation anthrax. The 61-year-old woman works in the hospital's storage supply room in the basement, which until a few days ago was housed with the mailroom.
No suspicious letter has been found, officials said.
The woman has no links with the media, politics, or with any of the mail-handling facilities in Washington, Florida, New Jersey or New York, where anthrax has been found, officials said. The woman, who was not identified, was in critical condition last night.
Federal officials yesterday said they are "intensively investigating" whether private homes are now being targeted for contaminated letters.
"Up to [Monday], there was no evidence at all that there could be or is an individual in which there might be the reasonable question, did they get infected from a piece of mail that went to their home," Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said at a White House news conference yesterday. "That is being intensively investigated right now."
Officials said the latest case should not scare Americans from opening their mail. "You ought to open your mail, and you ought to use the postal system," U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said at a press briefing yesterday.
Mr. Ridge said about 25 billion pieces of mail have been delivered around the country since the anthrax scare began with the Oct. 5 death of a tabloid photo editor in Florida.
Also yesterday, a second New Jersey postal worker was diagnosed with having inhalation anthrax. The woman, whose name was withheld, worked at the Hamilton Township Mail Processing Facility, where another postal worker was diagnosed with the same form of the disease Monday.
Officials said the Hamilton post office processed all three anthrax-laced letters that were sent to Washington and New York.
Anthrax spores also were found on a feeder belt in the main processing facility in Palm Beach County, Fla. Officials there said the amount of spores found was so small that they had no plans to shut down the facility.
The discoveries at the two postal facilities in the District and at Dulles came a day after traces of anthrax were found at four federal buildings, including the State Department, Health and Human Services, and the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court justices, who are taking antibiotics, have been hearing cases at a ceremonial room at the U.S. Court of Appeals on Constitution Avenue NW.
As of last night, D.C. officials said four of 36 post offices have tested positive for anthrax exposure: L Street in Southwest, Friendship in Northwest, Brentwood in Northeast and the post office near Dulles.
Test results from eight other post offices and mailrooms were still pending: T Street, Woodridge, Mid City, Kalorama, Columbia Heights Finance Center, National Airport, Farragut and 20th Street.
Five mailrooms or post offices have not yet been tested: Dulles Airport main terminal, Bolling Air Force Base, the Pentagon, Ben Franklin Post Office at the Old Post Office Pavilion and Tech World, a private company.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said last night he is confident "the worst of the anthrax threat is behind us" and the city's efforts to contain the infections and exposures are working.
"Billions of pieces of mail have been sent out since the first letter was found, the large number of [post offices] reporting negative exposure and the low number of cases [are] an indication that the worst is over," said Mr. Williams.
City officials have asked that customer-service areas in the front of the Brentwood facility be tested for exposure, said Dr. Ivan C.A. Walks, director of the city's health department.
State Department officials met with a large group of employees, many of whom expressed concern the department was not getting the same level of protection as federal workers on Capitol Hill, where buildings have been closed and are being fumigated.
Others asked for more information about whether to take the antibiotic Cipro or other drugs, and wanted to know why some were being given medicine, while others were not.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell tried to reassure the employees, saying the department would not do anything to put anyone in danger. But Mr. Powell also said the recent findings are "more than a scare."
"It's reality. We don't know a lot about where it's coming from. [But] don't respond to every rumor and every press report," he said. "There is a lot we don't know. We are not going to overreact."
Dr. Cedric Dumont, the head of the State Department's medical unit, said anthrax spores are "probably all over" the two-block Truman building but not in concentrations strong enough to cause inhalation anthrax. The areas where spores were found have been closed and are being cleaned.
"Your office areas probably have some contamination," Dr. Dumont told the employees. "We've got envelopes probably throughout the system that may have very few spores on them. But they are probably all over the place. We need to go back and have a reality check on the level of risk."
Dave Boyer, Ben Barber, Daniel F. Drummond and Brian DeBose contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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