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Connecticut woman dies of anthrax

DERBY, Connecticut (CNN) -- A 94-year-old Connecticut woman diagnosed with inhalation anthrax died Wednesday, hospital officials announced.

She is the nation's fifth anthrax fatality since anthrax-laced letters began showing up in the mail last month.

Ottilie Lundgren was admitted Friday to Griffin Hospital in Derby.

"The woman has not been all that mobile, 94 years old, very limited schedule," Connecticut Gov. John Rowland told CNN in an interview before Lundgren's death. "So we're really perplexed as to how this anthrax ... could have gotten to her."

Leahy letter 'as lethal' as one sent to Daschle 
Anthrax by the numbers
18 total anthrax infections
  • 11 cases inhalation anthrax (5 dead)
  • 7 cases cutaneous anthrax
  • Source: CDC/CNN

    Anthrax attacks
     Complete coverage

    Rowland said he didn't believe Lundgren was a "target of terrorism," but authorities are operating on the premise that she contracted anthrax via "cross contamination" through the mail. No suspicious letter has been found at her home.

    "We're obviously focusing on the mail because that has been the cause of other anthrax scares in the past," Rowland said.

    Lundgren was the first anthrax case in Connecticut and the first in the United States in about three weeks.

    Her diagnosis, confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raised the number of anthrax cases to 18 -- 11 of them the more serious inhalation anthrax and seven of them cutaneous.

    Four other people who contracted inhalation anthrax died, including Kathy Nguyen, a hospital worker who, like Lundgren, had no known connection to media outlets or government offices -- apparent targets for most of the cases.

    "There's no evidence now to explain where [the anthrax has] come from," said Dr. Howard Quentzel, chief of infectious disease at Griffin Hospital.

    Investigators from the FBI and the Connecticut State Police sealed off the woman's home in Oxford, a town of about 2,000 people in the southwestern part of the state, and they are questioning friends and family members to trace Lundgren's recent movements, Rowland said.

    "She's homebound," Rowland told WFSB in Connecticut. "She's been to, I understand, literally the post office and maybe even the beauty salon. That's been about it for the last few weeks. So this is a very remote case, similar to the case in New York, the worker in New York that had inhalation anthrax and unfortunately passed away."

    The governor said that two postal facilities sent mail to the woman's address in Oxford.

    "We checked both the Seymour and Wallingford post offices as late as November 11 to determine if there were any anthrax traces," he said. "Both of them came up clean. So we're going to go back to those two post offices, and we will also make available antibiotics to any of the postal workers in those two facilities, beginning [Wednesday] morning."

    Lundgren was taken by a family member to the emergency room Friday, suffering from an upper-respiratory tract infection, said Patrick Charmel, president of the hospital.

    Based on her symptoms, including rapid deterioration in her condition, doctors suspected anthrax within hours and began conducting tests and treating her for the illness, he said.

    In the investigation of the anthrax outbreaks, FBI sources said Wednesday that roughly 23,000 anthrax spores were found in the plastic evidence bag containing a suspicious letter addressed to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

    Earlier, one official had said the Leahy letter -- which has not yet been opened and is being analyzed at an Army lab in Maryland -- was "as lethal" as one sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle last month. The Leahy letter was discovered in a barrel of quarantined mail seized after the Daschle letter was opened.

    -- CNN National Correspondent Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.


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