ANTHRAX - DC VA Med Center mail room tests positive for trace amountsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Veterans Center Tests for Anthrax By LAURA MECKLER : Associated Press Writer Nov 4, 2001 : 8:02 am ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A mail room in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center tested positive for trace amounts of anthrax. Authorities were set to order the release of powerful chemicals in a Senate office building in hopes of killing any lingering anthrax spores.
One month after the first anthrax case was confirmed, President Bush on Saturday called the anthrax threat "a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country." He said in his weekly radio address that the government is working to swiftly test post offices and other sites for spores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the presence of anthrax at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Saturday, said Veterans Affairs spokesman Phil Budahn. Five mail room employees had already been taking antibiotics since Oct. 25 as a precaution.
Budahn said the center's 250 patients would be closely monitored, but it was extremely unlikely that the anthrax had spread beyond the mail room, which closed on Wednesday for cleaning.
"No one is ill," Budahn said. "There's no indications that patients or other staff came in contact with hazardous material. This is purely a mail room issue."
The medical center received mail from Brentwood, a Washington postal center that processed an anthrax-laced envelope delivered to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office.
On Capitol Hill, environmental experts planned to announce Sunday their plans for decontaminating the Hart Senate Office Building, where the letter to Daschle was opened.
They planned to fill the nine-story building with bacteria-killing chlorine dioxide gas, but the final approval was being left to a panel of experts.
Officials at the Treasury Department isolated a suspicious letter on Friday and sent it for testing. The letter bore the same Trenton, N.J., postmark as anthrax-laced mail delivered in New York and Washington. Officials said the address was also handwritten.
Anthrax testing was under way at 259 postal facilities, mostly on the East Coast. Officials awaited results from 21 post offices where testing was complete.
To date, the biological attack has killed four people and infected 13 others. Concentrated along the East Coast, anthrax also has been found in Kansas City, Mo., and Indianapolis.
The CDC sent a team of epidemiologists to Arizona, where the World Series was concluding, a precaution often taken when large crowds are expected. CDC officials considered a public service campaign to educate Americans about anthrax.
The New York Times reported in Sunday editions that the CDC also has vaccinated about 140 members of epidemiologic teams that can be dispatched on short notice to examine a suspected case of smallpox anywhere in the country. Unlike anthrax, smallpox is easily spread from person to person and federal officials are rushing to stockpile enough vaccine to inoculate millions of Americans if necessary.
Health authorities, who now believe that a New Jersey accountant was infected through the mail, said postal customers should keep an eye out for symptoms of anthrax. The skin form resembles a spider bite at first; the more serious inhalation anthrax, thought unable to be transmitted through regular mail, looks like flu.
In his radio address, Bush said the odds of receiving a piece of tainted mail are "very low."
In New York, investigators have not determined how Kathy T. Nguyen contracted inhalation anthrax. Nguyen, who died last week, was never able to tell them where she had been or who she had seen.
Initial testing for anthrax at her Bronx apartment and at the Manhattan hospital where she worked have come back negative. But CDC officials said they were beginning another round in the most promising sites and expanding to other places where she might have been.
-- Anonymous, November 04, 2001