Two More Develop Anthrax Disease; Daschle’s Office Hit
The "anthrax scare widened" yesterday with news that two more people have developed the disease and that a letter thought to contain anthrax was discovered in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the New York Times reports (Stolberg/Mitchell, New York Times, 10/16). The seven-month-old son of an ABC news producer has tested positive for cutaneous anthrax, after attending a birthday party at the network's Manhattan office on Sept. 28. The unidentified child was hospitalized briefly, but now is being treated with antibiotics and is "said to be responding well to the treatment." Officials are not certain whether the child was exposed to anthrax at the ABC offices; no other ABC employee has reported symptoms of anthrax exposure (Lipton, New York Times, 10/16). In a second new development, authorities now believe that Ernesto Blanco -- a mail room employee at Boca Raton, Fla.-based American Media Inc. -- has inhalation anthrax. Blanco's co-worker, Bob Stevens, died from inhalation anthrax earlier this month. Authorities previously detected anthrax spores in Blanco, who had been hospitalized for what was thought to be pneumonia. He has been receiving antibiotics since the spores were discovered (Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times, 10/16). Health officials said Blanco is "improving" and that they are "encouraged" by his progress (Hosler/Roylance, Baltimore Sun, 10/16). Although authorities have conducted anthrax tests on "hundreds" of people in Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York, only four people -- Stevens, Blanco, an NBC employee and the ABC producer's child -- have been diagnosed with the disease. Authorities also have determined that employees at a Reno, Nev.-based Microsoft office who handled a suspicious letter from Malaysia were not exposed to anthrax (Connolly/Dewar, Washington Post, 10/16). Ten others -- six in Florida and four in New York -- have been exposed to anthrax, but have not developed the disease (California Healthline, 10/15).
Although two field tests on the letter sent to Daschle's office indicated that it was contaminated with anthrax, further tests are being conducted to confirm the bacteria's presence (Hook/Lichtblau, Los Angeles Times, 10/16). Police quarantined Daschle's offices and 40 Capitol Hill employees who worked in the offices. These employees and ten other Hill workers began taking Cipro, the antibiotic used to treat anthrax disease. John Eisold, the Capitol physician, said, "I don't think any of the employees are in danger" (Merzer/Kuhnhenn, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/16). It was not clear whether any of the workers exposed to the powdery substance in the letter had spores in their bodies (Investor's Business Daily, 10/16). As a precaution, authorities told Hill workers not to open any more mail and said that any unopened mail would be screened. Mail delivery on the Hill was halted yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.