- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The case of the Bronx, N.Y., woman who is fighting to survive an attack of inhaled anthrax is as puzzling as it is serious.
As of yesterday, officials said they had no clue how the 61-year-old, who was on a respirator in a New York hospital, came into contact with the deadly bacteria.
Her case is "concerning, because it doesn't fit the pattern. … All the other cases have a very clear linkage [to the mail]," said a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the CDC points out, the woman is the first anthrax victim not associated with the assumed targets of the attackers the news media, the postal service and the government.
She is an employee of the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. Her only tie to mail the suspected carrier of the contagion is that her work area is in a basement supply room near the mailroom.
New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said, "There's no indication of a [contaminated] letter yet."
At a White House briefing, Tom Ridge, the director of the Office of Homeland Security, was pressed to explain whether the new case had caused officials to revise their theory that anthrax was being spread through cross-contamination from letters found to contain the bacteria. He said: "There are plenty of theories. We have not been operating on one theory. … Very detailed, very intense investigations are going on to determine whether it's one letter that cross-contaminated or whether there was more than one letter. …"
"Excuse me, sir," a reporter said. "Do you have any idea of the source of the anthrax that infected [the woman] in Manhattan …?"
Mr. Ridge replied: "You raise a very important question that has again resulted in an immediate and intense effort with the CDC, the local public health authorities, and law enforcement authorities to go back and basically retrace her steps. … How she became contaminated, or how she became infected, is something we need to try to find out."
What they will find, said bioterrorism specialist Jason Pate, is that the "far-fetched answer" is correct. Mr. Pate, a senior researcher at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in California, explains: "Either the hospital received a letter that went through the mailroom and the victim was exposed that way, or there was not a specific threat letter and the mail that went through a mail-processing facility contaminated the other mail."
In any event, the general public is in no greater risk now than before, Mr. Ridge insisted. He pointed out that the U.S. Postal Service has delivered 25 billion pieces of correspondence with just one reported anthrax infection that had no immediate direct connection with the mail.
"You couple that [fact] along with some very common-sense advice that the Postal Service has given, [and] … we still think … you ought to open your mail, and you ought to use the postal system."
As usual, Mr. Ridge was accompanied by various agency representatives. Among them was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was asked if the government was close to "containing the anthrax outbreak."
Dr. Fauci said: "The one thing that we don't know right now is that we don't know whether something else will come up, and then you will all of a sudden confuse it with what's going on right now. So there's no absolute answer to your question."

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