Early tests: N.Y. anthrax is same as Fla. strain
(CNN) -- Preliminary tests indicate the anthrax found in a letter sent to NBC News in New York is the same strain of the bacteria as the one identified in several cases at a Florida tabloid publishing company, sources at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CNN Wednesday.
That might mean the anthrax came from the same source, but further testing and investigation are needed before any conclusions can be drawn, experts say.
Three people have been diagnosed with anthrax after coming in contact with the spores at the two companies:
A photo editor for the Boca Raton, Florida, tabloid publisher American Media Inc. who later died; a mailroom employee in the same building who is being treated for a probable case of inhaled anthrax; and an assistant to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw in New York who developed cutaneous (skin) anthrax after opening the contaminated letter.
Authorities do not know the source of the anthrax that infected the baby of an ABC news producer. The child developed cutaneous anthrax after visiting the network's headquarters in New York.
Investigators said Wednesday the letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office was similar to the anthrax-contaminated letter sent to NBC. One law enforcement source said both letters contained references to Allah, the Arabic word for God. (Click to view)
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Wednesday he could not talk about specific characteristics because of the FBI's criminal investigation.
Officials in Washington said Wednesday the anthrax exposure in the U.S. Capitol complex was limited to a "very specific area" in the Senate Hart Office Building.
Nasal swabs from 23 members of Daschle's staff and three workers in Sen. Russell Feingold's office indicated they had been exposed to the bacteria. Five Capitol security officers also tested positive for exposure.
None of the employees are sick, doctors said.
Hundreds of Senate staffers have been tested for anthrax exposure and many received a three-day supply of ciprofloxacin to prevent onset of the disease.
Deputy Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu said there was no evidence of anthrax spores in the building's ventilation system.
Early tests on the anthrax from Daschle's office found the spores were 1-to-2 microns.
Spores must be between 1 and 5 microns to be inhaled into the lungs where they can do the most damage, experts say. Larger spores cannot be inhaled and smaller spores would be exhaled. A micron is equal to 1,000th of 1 millimeter.
The House of Representatives closed its offices Wednesday for an environmental survey and adjourned until Tuesday. The Senate planned to continue working in the Capitol itself but closed its three adjacent office buildings. They were not expected to reopen until Monday.
The FBI arrested a third person Wednesday on charges of mailing a false anthrax threat. Authorities said the Rhode Island man admitted mailing the letter to a friend as a joke. The friend called 911. (Full story)
New York Gov. George Pataki closed his Manhattan offices Wednesday after an environmental test indicated the presence of anthrax spores in a room used by a state police security detail.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson said Wednesday drug companies have assured him that sufficient supplies of antibiotics would be on hand to treat anthrax victims. He said his agency is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to build stockpiles of the medicines needed to treat anthrax and smallpox, another potential biological weapon all but eradicated as a disease in the United States decades ago.
A top Pentagon spokeswoman tells CNN that mail facility workers are wearing gloves and masks as they sort piles of material they handle. In addition, she said, the ventilation systems in the building have been "periodically checked fairly regulary" since September 11.
The U.S. Consulate General in Osaka, Japan, closed Wednesday after receiving a suspicious letter, and the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo also closed because of a "credible security threat," State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said. He would not discuss details of the threat. He said the letter was turned over to police for testing, and employees who handled it were taking antibiotics.
Scientists have confirmed the presence of anthrax in letters sent to NBC News, Daschle and the Florida headquarters of a tabloid newspaper whose photo editor is the only victim so far to die. (Full story)
A few dozen workers at USA Today's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, were evacuated after a reporter received what she thought was a suspicious envelope. A spokesman for the company said the woman thought she saw a powdery substance after she opened a corner of the envelope. The envelope was sent to the FBI for tests. Results are expected Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D- New York, said Tuesday a generic version of ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic used to treat anthrax, should be made available immediately for government use even though German drugmaker BayerAG holds the patent for the drug. In response, Bayer promised to increase production and make 200 million tablets over the next three months, officials said. (Full story)
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