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D.C. postal anthrax contamination worse than first thought

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A postal facility in the nation's capital that handled mail laced with anthrax was "terribly contaminated" with the deadly bacteria, even worse than authorities first believed, federal health officials said Thursday.

U.S. investigators are trying to determine who may have had the access and the know-how to develop anthrax. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports (December 21)

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CNN's Rea Blakey reports a debate is brewing over whether high risk workers should get the anthrax vaccine (December 21)

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The extent of the contamination at the Brentwood postal facility was determined by additional tests at the now-closed site after four workers there developed inhalation anthrax. Two of them died.

"The contamination was even more widespread than had initially been thought to be the case," said Dr. Rosemary Sokas, associated director of science at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She said the anthrax spores had spread further within the building than expected and that the "intensity" of the contamination was stronger as well.

Authorities believe the anthrax spores spread throughout the building with the use of a compressed air machine that had been used to clean equipment.

The Postal Service has since stopped using such cleaning equipment.

Authorities have found two tainted letters that passed through the Brentwood facility: one sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and another sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The Daschle letter was opened in his office in October, but the Leahy letter was found by authorities in a barrel of quarantined mail and opened in a military lab.


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