A District of Columbia postal worker, who checked himself into the hospital on Friday after suffering flu-like symptoms, has been diagnosed with inhalation anthrax and is in serious but stable condition today, hospital officials said.
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The unidentified man is being treated aggressively with antibiotics at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, the hospital nearest his home, officials said. He works in the Brentwood central mail handling facility for the nation's capital, which processed a contaminated letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle last week.
Five other Washington postal workers are ill — and at least two are hospitalized — with suspicious symptoms, and health officials are waiting for test results to see if they have anthrax, a spokesman for the city health department told the Associated Press.
More than 2,000 employees at the Brentwood facility and 150 at a mail center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where the man also worked, would be tested and given treatment, Washington Mayor Anthony Williams said.
A postal official told the Associated Press both facilities will be closed until testing and cleaning can be completed.
Third Inhalation Anthrax Case
The Washington postal worker confirmed to have anthrax is the third person in the country diagnosed with the serious form of anthrax over the past month. Two others were diagnosed in Florida after traces of the bacteria were found at Boca Raton, Fla.-based American Media, Inc. Bob Stevens, a photo editor at AMI, died from inhalation anthrax. Another man is recovering and in stable condition.
Seven others in New Jersey and New York have been diagnosed as having the skin or cutaneous form of anthrax, a less serious form of the illness.
In Washington, Dr. John Eisold, the Capitol physician, said 4,500 to 5,000 people have been tested for anthrax since the tainted letter was discovered last Monday in Daschle's office. Twenty-eight of those have tested positive for exposure to anthrax but none have contracted the disease, Eisold said.
The House shut down early last week and hazardous materials teams have been working their way across Capitol Hill checking for anthrax since the envelope addressed to Daschle tested positive for anthrax. It was opened in a sixth floor office in the southeast wing of the Hart Senate office building last Monday.
Evidence of the bacteria was also found Saturday on a single mail-sorting machine at a congressional mail-processing facility in the Ford House Office Building, about three blocks from the Capitol.
Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols said today there were no new positive tests within the Capitol complex.
Nichols said the Capitol would be open Monday and the House and Senate would be in session as scheduled on Tuesday, though office areas directly affected by anthrax would remain closed.
• Finely-Milled Anthrax
Investigators still do not know who is behind the recent anthrax cases, but senior law enforcement officials have said the anthrax-laden powder in the letter sent to Daschle was professionally manufactured. The letter contained anthrax powder with particles near the five-micron level, a senior law enforcement official said. When the letter was opened, a small plume of anthrax vapor reportedly mushroomed out.