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New anthrax exposures in New York

A Boca Raton, Florida, firefighter helps an FBI agent with his protective suit. The agent had been inside the American Media Inc. office building where anthrax was discovered.  

(CNN) -- A police officer and two laboratory technicians who handled a letter sent to NBC News that contained anthrax were exposed to anthrax spores, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Sunday.

The three people were shown a letter addressed to anchor Tom Brokaw while searching for the source of the spores that gave an NBC News employee the cutaneous (skin) form of the disease.

The letter, postmarked September 18, from Trenton, New Jersey, later tested positive for anthrax.

A few spores of the potentially fatal bacteria were found in the police officer's nose, Giuliani said. One of the lab technicians had one spore in her nose; the second lab technician had several spores on her face. All three are being treated with Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic.

"This does not mean they have anthrax," Giuliani said.

The presence of the spores does not mean the people will get the disease, said Dr. Steve Ostroff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"As long as you give these individuals antibodies to keep them from getting the disease, there is essentially zero likelihood that they will develop disease," he said.

Generally, 8,000 to 10,000 spores are needed inside the lungs for a person to get inhalation anthrax, the most dangerous form of the illness, he said.

The NBC employee is being treated and 600 other employees have been given nasal swabs and are being given prophylactic treatment with antibiotics.

"Thus far, we have no evidence of any growth that would suggest we are seeing any spores," said Health Commissioner Neal Cohen.

 If you receive a suspicious package:
  • Handle with care; don't shake or bump
  • Isolate and look for indicators
  • Don't open, smell or taste
  • Treat it as a suspect; call 911

  • Source: FBI

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    During the past 24 hours, the city has received more than 100 calls from New Yorkers reporting suspicious packages and expressing concern they may contain anthrax, Giuliani said.

    The packages are taken in a double bag to the Department of Health, where they are being tested. "All of them, at least at this stage, appear to be negative," Giuliani said.

    In Florida, 300 employees at the tabloid publishing company where the first anthrax case was reported will undergo a second round of blood tests this week after preliminary tests suggested more employees might have been exposed to anthrax, sources at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta told CNN on Sunday.

    The employees of American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, were given blood tests last week after a photo editor for The Sun, one of the company's newspapers, died from inhalation anthrax. Two other employees were exposed to the spores but did not develop the disease.

    When the test results came back, a small number of people were found to have "slightly elevated" levels of antibodies, officials said.

    If any of the workers were in fact exposed to anthrax, the second test would show even higher antibodies. Conclusive results are not likely to be available for several days, a CDC source told CNN.

    More than 80 federal agents are in Boca Raton to interview employees and about 500 others who visited the building in recent months, asking them about anything suspicious they might have encountered.

    Agents and health officials removed 78 samples from American Media headquarters last week for testing. Results from some of that material may be available as early as Monday.

    Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "The people in Atlanta at CDC are going to be working all weekend to get me a report late tonight or tomorrow about all the analysis of all the reports."

    Authorities say they do not know whether any of the cases are related to the September 11 attacks.

    "There has not been conclusive evidence tying it into Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda -- all we know is it is terrorism," Thompson said later on CNN's "Late Edition."

    Latest developments

    • President Bush plans to recommend that Congress allocate more than $1.5 billion in additional funds for the Department of Health and Human Services efforts to fight bio-terrorism, bringing the amount devoted to the fight to more than $1.8 billion, the department said Sunday. The money would be used to stockpile medications, speed development of smallpox vaccine and improve federal, state and local preparedness. (Full story)

    • An editor at the Boston Globe was tested Saturday for anthrax after he handled a suspicious letter similar to one received Friday by the New York Times, according to a report in the Globe Sunday. A Globe spokesman said there was little reason to believe the threat was real, and the editor was not being treated with antibiotics. Test results will be ready Tuesday.

    • Preliminary tests for anthrax came back negative on a substance found Friday in a letter to a New York Times reporter. (Full story)

    "There's no question it's bioterrorism. It's a biological agent. It's terrorism, it's a crime, it's terrorism. Whether or not it's connected to al-Qaeda, we can't say," Thompson said.  

    • In Nevada, nasal swabs came back negative on four of the six people who handled a letter containing anthrax mailed to a Microsoft subsidiary. The tests ruled out the possibility they could develop the inhalation form of the disease. Preliminary tests on the other two employees were also negative and the final results were expected later in the day, Warshoe District Health Officer Barbara Hunt said Sunday.

    • A CNN/Time Magazine poll released Saturday shows nearly half of Americans are concerned they or someone they know will be exposed to the anthrax bacteria.

    • Police evacuated England's historic Canterbury Cathedral Sunday afternoon after a member of the church staff reported seeing a man sprinkling white powder in a crypt in one of the cathedral's chapels. The powder was sent for testing.

    • In Indianapolis, Indiana, a US Airways flight bound for Denver, Colorado, made an emergency landing after a flight attendant found a mysterious substance on board. A spokesman for the airline said the substance turned out to be nontoxic.

    • A US Airways representative noticed a powdery substance on a vacant ticket counter at Pittsburgh International Airport and alerted authorities. Hazardous materials teams arrived and collected the substance and gave the area an all-clear, according to US Airways spokesman David Castelveter.

    • U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft acknowledged Sunday the news media could be a target. "If I were a terrorist, I would want to engender fear that was irrational, and I would want to curtail the availability of information in a free press that was good information," he told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

    • Thompson said health officials are geared up to respond to bio-terrorism -- from a volunteer corps of physicians to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

    • "We have 7,000 health professionals that are divided up into 90 medical assistance teams," Thompson said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "We have 6,000 in the commissioned corps, medical professionals that are able to move in. We have over several hundred in CDC, several hundred doctors and professionals and scientists in at NIH."

    • Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, who is a physician, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday "our system is under-prepared" if anthrax is used as weapon of mass destruction.


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