Share this article

print logo

ANTHRAX FOUND ON HOUSE SIDE OF CAPITOL

Anthrax spores turned up for the first time Saturday on the House of Representatives side of the U.S. Capitol complex, touching off a new round of medical tests of employees who might have been exposed.

Also, Washington Mayor Anthony Williams announced that a worker from a District of Columbia postal facility that handles mail going to Congress was being treated with antibiotics and would be tested for anthrax.

Tests, meanwhile, showed no signs of anthrax in a suspicious letter received at the New York Times' Rio de Janeiro bureau, Brazilian authorities said Saturday.

Also Saturday, New York State officials said that almost all environmental tests of Gov. George E. Pataki's Manhattan offices have been negative for anthrax.

The testing began after a preliminary test on a sample from the office tested positive for anthrax on Wednesday.

By Saturday afternoon, New York State officials had completed 130 to 140 environmental tests of Pataki's Manhattan offices, said John Signor, state Health Department spokesman.

The remaining environmental tests should be completed today, but a more thorough culture testing of the sample that initially tested positive for anthrax won't be completed for several days, he said.

On Friday, the New York Post said an employee who opens letters to the editor had been diagnosed with anthrax, the fourth such case connected to news media in the city and one of eight recent anthrax cases nationwide.

Johanna Huden, an assistant to Editorial Page Editor Bob McManus, has recovered. She wrote a first-person account for the Post's Saturday editions.

"I'm a victim of germ warfare," Huden wrote. "Anthrax antibodies are in my blood. Thanks, Osama."

Late Saturday, police said an unopened envelop addressed to the "Editor" of the Post had tested positive for anthrax. It was found Friday but had been postmarked Sept. 18.

Police officials said the handwriting on the envelop resembled that on an anthrax-laced letter to NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, also postmarked Sept. 18, and another to Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., postmarked Oct. 9. All three were mailed in Trenton, N.J.

FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette said investigators had not determined whether the letter is the one that infected Huden. It had been put aside because it had no return address and was not specifically addressed, Valiquette said.

Other New York cases include a woman believed infected by anthrax spores from the letter mailed to Brokaw and a woman who opens mail for CBS anchor Dan Rather. A 7-month-old boy who visited ABC News headquarters also was infected.

On Capitol Hill, authorities discovered the latest anthrax traces on a mail bundling machine in the Gerald R. Ford House Annex, a congressional office building in southwest Washington.

The building lies five blocks southwest of the Capitol itself and more than three-quarters of a mile from Daschle's office, where an anthrax-laced letter arrived Monday.

The mail bundling machine handles packages and letters destined for the nearby Longworth congressional office building, where many House members, including Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., have their offices.

"We don't know if there is another letter or if this is cross-contamination of the Daschle letter," Lt. Dan Nichols, Capitol Police spokesman, said Saturday.

All mail addressed to lawmakers goes through the Capitol police before going to the lawmakers' offices, so Daschle's letter could have contaminated another piece of mail destined for the annex's mailing machinery.

Dr. John Eisold, a physician for the Capitol, said workers in the Ford mailroom will be tested and treated if necessary.

He said the latest anthrax discovery was "not surprising if you follow the trail of mail."

Of 4,000 Senate workers and visitors tested since the letter arrived in Daschle's office, 28 showed signs of exposure.

The number of people with confirmed diagnoses of anthrax remains at eight, all of them in the United States. Those exposed to the spores are being treated with antibiotics to prevent the disease from developing.

Abroad, anthrax was found on a second letter mailed from the United States to a foreign country, this time in Argentina. Many false alarms were reported worldwide.

In Argentina, government health authorities told reporters that a letter sent from Miami to a woman in Buenos Aires contained anthrax spores but they said they believed she was not at risk of becoming infected. Last week, a doctor in Kenya received an anthrax-tainted letter from Atlanta.

There are no comments - be the first to comment