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Anthrax on stamps in N.C. 'medically insignificant'

RALEIGH, North Carolina (CNN) -- Trace amounts of anthrax found on sealed pallets of stamps at a Postal Service processing center in Raleigh are "medically insignificant" and pose no threat to workers at the facility, state officials said Friday.

"The bottom line is, 'everybody safe, no big problem,'" said Gov. Mike Easley at a news conference.

Because the amount of anthrax found was so small and was not in powder form, the nine employees who may have come into contact with the pallets have not been tested for anthrax exposure and are not being advised to take antibiotics, said Dr. Leah Devlin, acting state health director.

"This is a medically insignificant situation," she said.

The three pallets of stamps, covered in shrink wrap, arrived October 19 at the Raleigh facility, which serves post offices in north-central North Carolina, said Postal Service spokesman Bill Brown. The positive test was on a single sample among samples collected from all three pallets.

On their way to Raleigh, the pallets passed through the Brentwood postal processing facility in Washington, D.C., where two workers have died from inhalation anthrax.

The pallets were tested November 8 as part of an environmental study at 275 postal facilities across the country that may have been "downstream" from the Brentwood facility, said Dr. Steve Cline, North Carolina's chief epidemiologist. The study was designed to help officials better understand how anthrax circulates, he said.

Health officials learned of the positive test Thursday night and met with employees at the Raleigh facility to offer information and counseling. Forty-one other samples taken at the facility turned up negative, Cline said.

Additional tests are being conducted Friday to determine which of the three pallets contained the anthrax, and the area will then be decontaminated as a precaution, Brown said.

In addition, he said areas along the path that the pallets took from the facility's loading dock to the vault will be tested for anthrax contamination.


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