No New Cases of Anthrax Seen, Mail Precautions Announced
No new cases of confirmed anthrax infection were reported yesterday, and D.C. health officials said yesterday that four people they had considered to have symptoms "highly suspicious" of anthrax infection have been dropped from that category, the Washington Post reports. More than 40 people remain hospitalized in the D.C. area and under observation for potential anthrax disease, but they are not expected to have confirmed infections (Tucker/Nakashima, Washington Post, 10/25). The Washington Times reports that D.C. officials are awaiting test results from seven people who worked at the Brentwood processing center, where two men who died from inhalation anthrax infection and two others hospitalized with the disease worked. The tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) passed through the Brentwood facility (Sorokin, Washington Times, 10/25). In another potential case, a member of the media who worked in a Senate office building has been hospitalized for suspected inhalation anthrax (Parker et al., USA Today, 10/25). Authorities also suspect a second New York Post employee has cutaneous anthrax. The mailroom employee possibly handled an anthrax-contaminated letter to the editor that Johanna Huden, who has confirmed cutaneous anthrax infection, also handled. The unidentified mailroom worker is taking antibiotics (Wight/Connor, New York Post, 10/25). Officials also are waiting for test results on a 56-year-old female postal worker from New Jersey who worked in a facility through which at least three anthrax-laced letters passed. The woman is believed to have inhalation anthrax and is in serious but stable condition (Merzer/Pugh, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/25). In total, there are six confirmed cases of inhaled anthrax infection, the most deadly form of the disease. Three men -- one in Florida and two in Washington, D.C. -- have died from the disease. Six other people in New York and New Jersey have cutaneous anthrax infection. About 10,000 people who have not developed anthrax infection but might have been exposed to the bacteria are taking antibiotics as a precaution (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/25). In some "promising" news, Ernesto Blanco, an American Media Inc. employee who has inhalation anthrax, was released from the hospital Tuesday, "raising the hopes of health officials that the often-fatal form of the disease can be beat" (Garvey/Sanders, Los Angeles Times, 10/25).
The CDC is expected today to announce recommendations for protecting mail handlers, the New York Times reports (Purdum, New York Times, 10/25). Postmaster General John Potter said yesterday that the agency will begin installing germ-killing machines by Nov. 1. Radiation, including gamma rays, X-rays and electron-beams, may be used to sterilize mail (Stroh,
href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/custom/attack/bal-te.anthrax25oct25.story?coll=bal%2Dhome%2Dheadlines">Baltimore Sun, 10/23). USPS Senior Vice President Deborah Willhite added that 500,000 postal workers around the nation will be offered protective masks and gloves. U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Patrick Donohoe said the agency is considering installing automated equipment to sort mail to "reduce the risk of hands-on work" (Tucker/Nakashima, Washington Post, 10/25). Surgeon General David Satcher said that officials also are considering vaccinating postal employees who work in "high-risk areas" and may tap into "inactive reserves of the public health service commissioned corps" should the anthrax "attacks" continue (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/25). Willhite said that consumers, who have a "minuscule" chance of contracting anthrax by touching mail, should nevertheless "wash their hands in soap and water after they handle their mail everyday" (Baltimore Sun, 10/25).