Nerves were on edge across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas despite pleas for calm from health authorities as anthrax jitters gripped the globe.
In the third incident involving anthrax in the mail outside the United States, an envelope containing a white powder in the Bahamas tested positive for anthrax spores over the weekend, according to Bahamian health authorities.
Ten people who came in contact with the letter were being treated for possible exposure to anthrax, Bahamian authorities revealed today. The envelope, which was addressed to an undisclosed Bahamian address, aroused suspicions last week, when mail workers in the postal office in the capital of Nassau noticed that the envelope was leaking white powder.
Preliminary tests on the envelope came up positive for anthrax, said Bahamian Chief Medical Officer Merceline Dahl-Regisdone, but authorities were awaiting results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the lab findings.
Third Case Overseas
The discovery of anthrax spores in Nassau followed similar cases of the presence of anthrax spores in the mail in Kenya and Argentina last week.
Last Thursday, a Kenyan national became the first confirmed anthrax exposure outside the United States after receiving a piece of suspicious mail.
A day later, a reporter for The New York Times in the paper's Rio de Janeiro bureau received an envelope that tested positive for anthrax.
Four Times employees at the bureau were being treated with Cipro as a preventive measure, the Times disclosed, and further tests on the letter were still being conducted, according to Brazilian authorities.
Hoaxes Outnumber Confirmed Cases
The new cases only added to global jitters as panic calls, security alerts and hoaxes vastly outnumbered the confirmed cases of anthrax exposure.
In the Polish capital of Warsaw today, security personnel cordoned off a room in Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller's offices after security staff discovered a package containing an unidentified powder. A spokesman for Miller said tests on the package were being conducted.
Poland's was the latest in a series of scares that put security at embassies, postal offices and government premises around the world on heightened alert.
Anthrax scares disrupted services at the French and Indian embassies in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo a few days after similar scares gripped the U.S. and Australian embassies last week.
With 18 years of civil war between the country's majority Sinhalese population and Tamil separatists led by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), a terrorist organization notorious for its suicide bombers and its recent attack on the Colombo airport, the diplomatic community in Sri Lanka is on high alert.
In Malaysia, staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur were given antibiotics after a suspicious letter was found on the premises. A family of four was placed under quarantine last week, when a family member opened a suspicious letter from the United States and Malaysian postal workers have been provided gas masks and gloves to handle mail.
Mail services in Finland, Denmark and Sweden were disrupted following a series of hoaxes at postal sorting centers today.
Governments across the world have been struggling to maintain a balance between providing adequate knowledge and a need to control public concerns.