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.
MORE ANTHRAX-RELATED NEWS:
• Finely-Milled Powder at Capitol
• N.J. Postal Facility Contaminated
• Tainted Travel Brochure in Argentina
• Anthrax Q & A
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.
Anthrax spores can be used as an effective weapon after they have been dried and milled down to a size of between one and five microns. If the particles are smaller than one micron, they are exhaled. Larger than five microns, and chances are the particles will lodge in the nose.
But administration officials, including homeland security chief Tom Ridge, are not calling the anthrax, which has not shown to be resistant to antibiotics, military grade.
Making such finely-milled anthrax spores requires elaborate machinery, suggesting the powder was produced by a well-funded and possibly state-funded operation.
Federal authorities have also revealed that the anthrax found in Daschle's office came from the same strain as that contained in a letter sent to NBC News headquarters in Manhattan, and the one mailed to AMI.
Ridge has referred to them as "indistinguishable."
An anthrax-tainted letter sent to the New York Post has been sent to an Army facility in Maryland for further testing.
• Thousands of Negative Test Results in N.Y.
At the Trenton Main Post Office in Hamilton Township, N.J., early tests found widespread anthrax contamination, the Associated Press reported. The state epidemiologist reportedly told union members last night that 13 of 23 samples from the building's work areas contained anthrax.
Anthrax-laden letters mailed to the Post, Daschle, and NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw, were all postmarked from Trenton. Handwriting in the three letters is also similar, the FBI and New York Police Department said in a joint statement.
Like the letter addressed to Brokaw, the Post letter was dated Sept. 18. The letter to Daschle was dated Oct. 8.
The handwritten letters inside the envelopes to Brokaw and Daschle were both dated "09-11-01," the date of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and contained within their messages: "Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great."
Federal agents are retracing a postal route in Trenton, and have reportedly seized mailboxes in which someone may have deposited the letters laced with anthrax.
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Rudoph Giuliani said today that numerous tests performed at media organizations in the city had come back negative for evidence of anthrax, including tests of 1,300 employees of NBC News.
Environmental tests at ABCNEWS, where the 7-month-old son of a producer was believed to have contracted the disease, had also returned negative. Investigators have not identified the source of the child's infection, and no suspect letter had been found at ABC.
The number of New Yorkers infected with the anthrax bacteria remains at four, the mayor said, with one case each at NBC, CBS, ABC and the New York Post.
• Anthrax Found in Argentina
Since anthrax was discovered less than a month ago in the United States, scares have occurred around the world. Until this weekend, however, anthrax only had been confirmed outside the U.S. in Kenya.
Now, anthrax-tainted mail has been found in Argentina, a government official there said Saturday. The infected parcel was a travel brochure sent as part of a bulk-mailing from a Miami tourism company to a woman identified only as "Patricia" in a Buenos Aires home, said Hector Lombardo, the nation's health minister, according to the Associated Press.
"There was no exposure," Lombardo said. "The woman is fine because she didn't open the letter."
But Argentine authorities say the news set off a "very important panic," as elections were canceled, security forces scrambled to cover border crossings and people rushed to get antibiotics. The bulk mailing was from Ramada Plaza Resorts, which sells vacation vouchers for three-day cruises, stays in Fort Lauderdale and trips to Orlando. At least 600 homes received the brochure in the Argentina neighborhood where the infected letter was sent.
Meanwhile, other previously reported possible anthrax findings have been cast into question.
A Brazilian laboratory said a letter sent to the Rio de Janeiro bureau of The New York Times had tested negative for anthrax. The Times had announced Friday that the suspect letter tested positive for "bacteria or spores consistent with anthrax."
According to Reuters, the Fiocruz laboratory said the letter, turned over by Times employees to Brazilian authorities Thursday, contained no powder and no traces of harmful germs.
And in New York City, most environmental tests in the Manhattan office of New York Governor George Pataki have been negative for anthrax after a preliminary test on Wednesday suggested its presence, New York state health officials told the Associated Press.