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New evidence points to multiple Florida letters

(CNN) -- A health official investigating anthrax contamination at the American Media Inc. headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, said investigators are looking into the possibility that the publishing company may have received more than one letter tainted with the bacteria.

A spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department said the discovery of a single anthrax spore at a sixth Palm Beach post office Wednesday suggests more than one letter carrying anthrax was sent to AMI.

The postal facility where that anthrax spore was found handled misdirected mail for the National Enquirer tabloid, one of several national tabloids housed in the AMI building, the official said.

"It's unlikely that (deceased Sun tabloid photo editor) Bob Stevens would have come in contact with mail from that facility," said Tim O'Connor, a spokesman for the county health department.

Stevens died October 5 of inhalation anthrax. A Sun mailroom employee, Ernesto Blanco, was also diagnosed with the disease. After being near death at one point, he is now recovering at home.

Anthrax by the numbers
17 total anthrax infections

  • 10 cases inhalation anthrax (4 dead)

  • 7 cases cutaneous anthrax

Source: CDC/CNN

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  •  Tracking the bacteria
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Latest developments

• Citing a "serious risk to aircrews," Federal Express pilots Friday asked company officials to implement a battery of safety procedures to safeguard them from anthrax exposure, including providing anthrax vaccinations. To underscore its request, the FedEx Pilots Association cited the treatment of 32 FedEx employees for what it called "suspected anthrax exposure." (The CDC has said these are not suspected cases.)

• FBI agents, many wearing oversized, white hazardous-materials suits, on Friday raided an apartment in Trenton, New Jersey, where four Pakistani men lived. Agents removed several bags of materials from the apartment. None of the apartment's residents were home at the time of the raid, the building manager said, but witnesses said one man who lived there came home during the search and was taken away in a police car. (Full story)

• The Treasury Department's off-site mail facility was closed Friday night for environmental testing after an employee there found a suspicious letter with the same Trenton, New Jersey, postmark as three anthrax-laden letters. Two government sources familiar with the investigation told CNN the letter also had "unusual" writing on the outside. A mailroom worker flagged the letter for both reasons. (Full story)

• An aide to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson told CNN the secretary has confirmed a 17th case of anthrax, the latest a previously announced suspected case of skin anthrax.

• Anthrax has been found in the workplace mailbox of a New Jersey bookkeeper who has also been diagnosed with skin anthrax, according to the health official's aide, Thompson added.

• FBI Director Robert Mueller reached out to the public for help with the investigation. "We ask you, throughout the country, to report any suspicious behavior that involves any United States mails or individuals knowledgeable about anthrax," he said.

• Pakistan's science minister said Friday that tests have confirmed that two people at separate locations have been exposed to anthrax, and at least one of four suspect letters received at three locations in the country contained anthrax. Neither of the two people exposed has exhibited symptoms of the disease, said Science and Technology Minister Atta-ur-Rahman. (Full story)

• Test results show at least one mailbag at the U.S. embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be positive for anthrax, an embassy spokesman said Friday. (Full story)

• In Germany, further tests on two suspicious envelopes sent to an unemployment benefits office turned up negative for anthrax, the health minister said Friday. Final test results are expected Saturday. (Full story)

• House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said that families of the four people who died recently of inhalation anthrax should be eligible for compensation from a government victims' fund already established for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. (Full story)

• U.S. Supreme Court justices reclaimed their high court offices Friday after the discovery of anthrax spores in the building's mailroom prompted a weeklong closure of the facility.

• Health experts told doctors there is a clue to distinguish between colds, flu and anthrax. They said anthrax victims do not have runny noses. (Full story)

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women Thursday that one standard antibiotic used to treat or prevent anthrax is safer for developing fetuses. (Full story)

• An advisory panel looking at the nation's ability to respond to terrorist acts called Thursday for the creation of a national laboratory to research, develop and produce vaccines to combat biological terrorism. (Full story)

• Preliminary tests on four mailrooms used by the Food and Drug Administration have come back positive for anthrax, an agency spokeswoman said Thursday, adding that more tests are under way to confirm the contamination. Those sites in Rockville, Maryland, did not get mail directly from the tainted Brentwood processing center in Washington, the spokeswoman said, but received mail primarily from a Postal Service "hub" in Shady Grove, Maryland.

• The Federal Trade Commission warned the public Thursday about possibly fraudulent Web sites touting anthrax cures. Many new sites prey on people's fears and vulnerabilities, the agency advised. (Full story)

• Six bar code sorting machines and a freestanding dust extractor have tested positive for anthrax at Manhattan's largest postal facility, the Postal Service said Thursday. The facility will remain open while machines are being decontaminated, officials said.


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