- WASHINGTON (Reuters Health)
- Bush administration officials confirmed Friday that anthrax spores had
been detected in the main State Department building and in the downtown
headquarters of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The buildings are serviced by the Brentwood mail
center in Washington, DC, the same facility where two postal workers died
last week of inhalation anthrax. Officials said that they have no evidence
of intentionally contaminated mail at the buildings, suggesting that
were cross-contaminated by the tainted letter received at the office of
Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-SD) 2 weeks ago.
- But authorities said that their tests so far indicate
little risk of contracting anthrax from non-governmental mail.
- (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said that spores had
been detected in the mailroom at the Cohen Building, a structure adjacent
to HHS headquarters that houses offices of the FDA and of Voice of America
radio. The building has been closed for further testing.
- "The Cohen Building has been presumptively
tested for anthrax this past couple days, and all individuals in the
are on antibiotics," Thompson said at a briefing of the White House
Office of Homeland Security.
- Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge also confirmed
that a location inside State Department headquarters in Washington had
tested positive for spores. The positive test did not deter President Bush
from visiting the building Monday morning for a speech on African
- The White House has scheduled homeland security briefings
three times a week in an effort to avoid confusion on anthrax scares and
other security issues. HHS officials said that they would still handle
outreach on public health issues relating to anthrax.
- Thompson also said that officials were in "very
preliminary" discussions over whether or not to begin vaccinating
anthrax cleanup crews and some postal workers against anthrax.
- Public health authorities also addressed growing public
concerns that mail bound for private citizens could have been
- Scientists have performed 300 samples at 22 post offices
where non-governmental mail was being handled, said Dr. Pat Meehan, the
director for emergency and environmental services at the Centers for
Control and Prevention. Those tests yielded one positive hit for trace
amounts of anthrax.
- "That suggests to us that it's starting to look
like non-governmental mail was minimally affected by this so far,"
Meehan said. He went on to say that people living in the DC area and
mail there "are essentially at no risk of inhalation
- Meanwhile, some 13,000 postal workers--6,000 in
and Baltimore and more than 7,000 in New York and New Jersey--are taking
antibiotics to guard against possible anthrax exposures, according to
Day, the vice president for engineering at the US Postal Service.
- Most workers have been ordered to switch from
or Cipro, to doxycycline, a cheaper but still effective antibiotic.
tend to go to doxycycline because of the simpler dosing" and because
the government has ample supplies of the drug, Meehan said.
- The Postal Service has begun irradiating mail from
at another facility in Lima, Ohio. The government has ordered eight
machines capable of sterilizing mail with electron beams for distribution
at strategic points throughout the country.
- "We're looking to get even more capacity, if
to increase the ability to irradiate mail," Day said.
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