W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 22 -- Anthrax is the suspected cause of death for two Washington, D.C. postal workers employed at a facility where two other workers have now been diagnosed with the gravest form of the bacterial infection.
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"It is very clear that their symptoms are suspicious and their deaths are likely due to anthrax," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said, referring to the two employees of a central mail facility in the Brentwood area of Washington.
One man died Sunday and the other today. Authorities would not release any further details about the two men, but said they were awaiting the results of a final round of tests before labeling their deaths as anthrax-related.
"There is a strong suspicion that they died from anthrax," said Postmaster General Jack Potter.
Officials also disclosed today that a dock supervisor at the facility had been diagnosed with inhalation anthrax — a day after it was revealed an employee who worked with express and air mail, Leroy Richmond of Stafford, Va., had the same form of bacterial infection.
"We have a second confirmation of a case of inhalation anthrax," said chief Washington health officer Dr. Ivan Walks. He spoke to reporters outside D.C. General Hospital where many of the 2,000 employees at the Brentwood facility and another 150 at an air mail center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport were being tested and treated as a precautionary measure. Richmond worked at the air mail center.
Both of the inhalation anthrax patients were being treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia and are said to be in serious condition.
Walks urged any employees who hadn't yet received treatment to do so immediately. Brentwood services 36 other post office facilities in the Washington, D.C. area. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control tonight are expected to tell workers employed at these other post office facilities to pick up the anthrax antibiotic Cipro and use it for 10 days, starting as soon as Tuesday.