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Pakistan to test 3 people for anthrax exposure

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's top health official said Saturday his agency would test three people suspected of anthrax exposure in Karachi, calling on a private laboratory that tested three envelopes for the bacteria to hand over its samples for further tests.

Dr. Athar Saeed Dil said his organization, the Pakistan National Institute for Health, is the only body in the country that an confirm or deny the presence of anthrax.

Earlier, the Pakistani science minister said that at least one of four suspect letters received at three locations in the country contained anthrax. No one thought to be exposed to anthrax has exhibited symptoms, he said.

Science and Technology Minister Atta-ur-Rahman told CNN the letters were sent to a national newspaper, a computer company and a bank. One of the locations received two letters. Asia
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"Only one [letter] has been confirmed officially," Rahman said. "The other three cases are reports from a private laboratory, and they need to be confirmed by the government."

Dil asked the Aga Khan Hospital, which tested the other three samples, "to send us the suspected samples and carry out the tests at the health institute with state-of-the-art facilities."

Mahmood Sham, editor of Pakistan's largest newspaper in Karachi, the Urdu-language Daily Jang, told CNN a reporter there opened a letter October 23 and found it contained white powder.

He also said that the letter and the person who opened it tested positive for the presence of anthrax.

Rahman said there is no laboratory in Pakistan that could have processed the anthrax "so it must have come from outside" the country.

-- CNN Producer Allison Flexner contributed to this report.


• Daily Jang newspaper (Urdu)

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