Another case confirmed, new traces found
WASHINGTON -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Sunday that a female New Jersey postal worker has inhalation anthrax, and the Justice Department said the microbe has been discovered at an off-site facility that processes its mail.
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner stressed that the incident in New Jersey, involving the most serious form of the disease, was not a new case but rather one that had been listed as suspected. Lab tests confirmed the diagnosis, he said. Three people have died from inhaled anthrax.
At least five New Jersey postal workers have suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax. Anthrax-tainted letters sent to Washington and New York originated there.
Tests continued at postal and government offices in the nation's capital and elsewhere. Officials were seeking to determine whether other tainted letters are in the mail system.
Sunday night, the Justice Department revealed that several locations in a suburban Maryland facility that processes its mail tested positive for anthrax.
Spokeswoman Susan Dryden said samples from a variety of locations within the Landover, Md., facility showed the presence of anthrax, including locations that handle mail for Attorney General John Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.
Dryden said mail rooms within the Justice Department have been tested for anthrax, and results are expected by Tuesday.
Department employees who handle mail or who are in frequent contact with mail facilities in the building were contacted and asked to get antibiotics, she said. Dryden said mail delivery to the Justice Department was suspended several days ago.
At the Supreme Court, spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said about 400 court employees and others were tested for possible exposure to anthrax Friday and Saturday. Those tested were given six-day supplies of the antibiotic doxycycline. Depending on whether test results reveal any contamination of the court's main building, some of those 400 may be given 60-day supplies of the drug, she said.
Tests on the building began Friday night and continued through the weekend. Results were not available by Sunday night, Arberg said.
Thousands of postal workers and others who dealt with large amounts of mail already were being urged to take preventive antibiotics.
Dr. Ivan Walks, Washington's public health director, and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said the antibiotic doxycycline was being recommended because it has fewer side effects than Cipro, which had been prescribed at first.
Despite the strain on the system, postal vice president Deborah Willhite vowed the mail will go through.
"We're coming up to the first of the month and a lot of people are very dependent upon the movement of mail, receiving and sending of financial instruments is a vital public service," she said. "The Postal Service will rise to that duty."
Walks said no new anthrax had been found in the city since contamination was discovered Friday at a Supreme Court mail-handling facility.
To disseminate the growing volume of information on anthrax, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge will begin briefing reporters at least three times a week, and more likely every day, Bush administration officials said Sunday.
There have been 14 confirmed cases of anthrax in the outbreak, including eight inhaled versions of the disease. Six people in New York and New Jersey are being treated for the less dangerous skin form of anthrax, and a few other cases are suspected.
On Capitol Hill, the Hart Senate Office Building was to remain closed today but the garage it shares with the adjacent Dirksen building was scheduled to reopen along with other Senate offices. On the House side, the Ford and Longworth office buildings were closed thorough the weekend. Whether they would reopen today was unclear.
The Hart building is home to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who received a letter containing a highly potent form of anthrax three weeks ago.
Since then two postal employees from a facility that processed the letter have died. Two others, as well as a State Department mail room worker, have been hospitalized with the inhaled form of the disease. All three remained in serious condition Sunday.
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From the AP