Nevada governor issues anthrax alert for Reno : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Today: October 12, 2001 at 16:27:26 PDT

Nevada governor issues anthrax alert for Reno

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A letter sent to a Reno company that tested "presumptively positive" for anthrax was being further examined Friday by state health officials.

Additional tests were being conducted at a state Health Division laboratory to confirm the presence of anthrax. Results are expected Saturday, officials said.

Greg Bortolin, press secretary to Gov. Kenny Guinn, didn't immediately identify which company received the letter.

Guinn said he was glad to see that the state's emergency management system "worked very well" in handling the possible anthrax incident. He added employees at the company who became suspicious followed proper steps in alerting authorities.

Dr. Randy Todd, the state epidemiologist, said the Washoe County Health Department and the FBI are involved in the investigation, which began after one company employee got a returned letter that "just didn't look right."

Todd said the letter had been opened and appeared to have been moistened and then dried out.

He said the letter and its contents, which he wouldn't describe, were tested "and we got a number of things growing, including bacillus, the genus to which anthrax belongs."

A further test to see whether the bacillus was anthrax produced results "consistent with it being anthrax," Todd said. "But we'd like to have one more test at a minimum and maybe two more."

"There's more at this point that we don't know than we do know," he added.

Barbara Hunt, Washoe County district health officer, said she couldn't confirm the material was anthrax because final test results were pending.

Hunt added the "presumptively positive" phrasing is "a scientific term that means initial tests indicate a specimen is positive for a given microorganism, but further testing to confirm the results still have to be done."

"My understanding is a letter was received that looked suspicious," Hunt said. "There are a number of criteria for a letter that might be suspicious and the individual was smart enough to have it analyzed."

Anthrax, whether the inhaled or skin variety, is caused by spores of Bacillus anthraces, the anthrax bacteria that are mainly a livestock disease. The infection is hard to diagnose and difficult to cure once symptoms start.

-- Jackson Brown (, October 12, 2001

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