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Howard University mailrooms closed for anthrax cleanup

By Bill Mears

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eight mail facilities on the campus of Howard University underwent precautionary testing Tuesday after the school's main mailroom tested positive for trace amounts of anthrax.

It is the first known case of anthrax contamination at a nongovernmental facility in the Washington area.

University spokeswoman Sheila Harvey says the mail sorting facilities were closed, and a private contractor was scheduled to be finished cleaning Tuesday.

Separate follow-up testing of those mailrooms is also ongoing, and results are expected back with the next 72 hours. Harvey said the rest of the campus remains open, and federal officials told Howard the contamination posed no health threat to the university community.

Harvey said one of 54 environmental samples at Howard tested positive over the weekend. None of the 300 mail-handling workers at Howard was believed to be at risk, since they had been on preventive antibiotics since October 21.

All eight mail facilities at Howard received mail directly from Washington's Brentwood Road mail-sorting facility, which closed because anthrax contamination from at least one letter was sent to the Capitol Hill office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Four Brentwood employees developed inhalation anthrax, and two have died. Health officials earlier said the anthrax spores were largely confined to Brentwood's government mail sorting area, and it was unlikely nongovernmental customers would be at risk for infection.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams and the city's health commissioner, Dr. Ivan Walks, met with Howard officials Tuesday. Walks praised the university's "proactive steps," saying the situation is contained and the community was not at risk.




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