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House office building reopens after anthrax discovery

(CNN) -- U.S. Capitol Police announced Sunday that the Longworth House Building, which has been closed since October 26 when traces of anthrax were discovered in the offices of three congressmen, will reopen Monday morning.

Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols said the three offices where the bacteria was found will remain closed. Those offices belong to Reps. John Baldacci, D-Maine, Rush Holt, D-New Jersey, and Mike Pence, R-Indiana, and are located on the sixth and seventh floors. No plan has yet been approved as to how to clean their offices.

Several House and Senate office buildings were closed for decontamination in October. Most are now reopened, except for the Hart Senate Office Building, where an anthrax-laced letter was delivered to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle October 19.

A special review panel has completed its debate on whether to use chlorine dioxide gas to fumigate the Hart building to kill anthrax spores inside. The Environmental Protection Agency will issue a statement on that decision soon, Nichols said.

One concern about pumping toxic gas inside the structure to kill anthrax spores is its size. The Hart building, with a high-ceiling central foyer featuring a huge metal sculpture, contains 10 million cubic feet of space. Sealing it with plastic and tape and circulating the gas through the air conditioning system -- the best way to rid the building of anthrax -- would take two weeks.

That estimated does not include extra time for tests to make sure the spores have been killed and the gas neutralized.

Earlier Sunday, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani confirmed that a tape sent by NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw's office to City Hall contained anthrax.

Giuliani said the tape was sent in the first week of October before Brokaw's assistant tested positive for the cutaneous form of the disease. (Full story)

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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Attack on America
 The latest news

Latest developments

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has vaccinated about 140 members of teams that can be summoned at a moment's notice to examine a suspected smallpox case anywhere in the country. Officials said they have no evidence that anyone is readying a terror attack using smallpox, but said the steps are necessary to prepare for any attack. Smallpox would be an especially lethal weapon, as it is contagious and has a high death rate.

• A mailroom in the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington has tested positive for anthrax, officials said Saturday. The mailroom is located in a hospital that houses 250 patients but is not near patient areas, said Phil Budahn, the VA's media relations director. Swabs were taken in the mailroom October 30 because the hospital receives its mail from the main Brentwood branch post office in Washington, the facility that processed an anthrax-laden letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. (Full story)

• Elsewhere in Washington, Treasury Department officials said they were still waiting for results of environmental testing for anthrax at an off-site mail facility. Officials closed the facility Friday night following the discovery by a mailroom worker of a suspicious letter with a Trenton, New Jersey, postmark. All three known letters laced with anthrax in the United States so far have been postmarked from Trenton. Results from those environmental tests should be available sometime this weekend, said a Treasury Department spokeswoman.

• President Bush on Saturday defended the government's response to the anthrax threat and stressed that the bacteria is not contagious. "As we deal with this new threat, we are learning new information every day," Bush said in his weekly radio address. (Full story)

• A mail processing facility in Camden County, New Jersey, tested positive for the presence of anthrax in tests conducted by the FBI, state health officials said. One sample taken from the Bellmawr Mail Distribution Center tested positive for anthrax. All the other samples were negative. Environmental samples were taken Wednesday after an employee was diagnosed with a suspected case of cutaneous, or skin anthrax. (Full story)

• In Newark, New Jersey, a letter turned up that contained small amounts of cyanide, but not enough to be fatal, officials said. A postal employee at a Newark facility noticed a letter that appeared to be leaking, and an analysis showed that it contained laundry detergent, a bleach powder and trace amounts of copper cyanide. Copper cyanide is used for copper electroplating, and can be fatal if large amounts are inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. (Full story)

• To date, 17 people have been infected with anthrax in the United States. Four have died of inhalation anthrax and six more are battling that form of the disease. Seven other people have been diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax.


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