CDC: Inhalation anthrax suspected in New Jersey case
TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified a suspected case of inhalation anthrax in a female New Jersey mail handler, a state health official said Tuesday.
In light of the CDC declaration, state Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner George DiFerdinando said he was expanding treatment protocols for New Jersey's affected postal workers.
"The most important message ... is those workers who have not seen a physician or a nurse so far absolutely need to see a physician or a nurse to receive this prescription," DiFerdinando said. "And those who have received the antibiotic but have not yet begun to take it need to do so immediately."
Two New Jersey postal facilities -- the Trenton processing plant in Hamilton Township, where the woman suspected of contracting inhalation anthrax worked, and a West Trenton post office branch -- have been closed for environmental sweeps.
Officials said they believe the letters addressed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw originated on a route covered by the West Trenton post office and were sent through the Trenton facility for postmarking en route to Washington and New York.
Two other New Jersey postal workers -- one at the processing facility and the second a mail carrier in West Trenton -- have been diagnosed with cutaneous (skin) anthrax.
Dr. Eddy Bresnitz of the New Jersey Department of Health said the latest case is a middle-aged woman "who began to feel ill sometime last week."
"Initial tests did not support an anthrax diagnosis," Bresnitz said, but subsequent tests by the CDC indicated the possibility that the first tests were wrong "in the context of where she worked and the time of when she became ill."
Bresnitz said the woman, whose family preferred she remain unidentified, was in serious but stable condition, had been on antibiotics for five days and appeared responsive to the antibiotics.
He also said people in New Jersey's other anthrax cases were doing well.
DiFerdinando said he is increasing the seven-day antibiotic course he initially had ordered for employees of the Hamilton Township and West Trenton facilities to 10 days and is adding employees from other facilities who may have come into the processing plant to the list of those to begin the regimen.
The changes, he said, would match the New Jersey protocols to those used in Washington, where two postal workers have been hospitalized with inhalation anthrax and two others have died from the disease.
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