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Army base package likely had no anthrax

Emergency response teams arrive at Fort McPherson after a suspicious package was found. Officials now say that is unlikely the package contained anthrax.  

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A suspicious package containing powder found at the U.S. Army's Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia, almost certainly did not contain anthrax, a base spokesman said Saturday.

The base received the news early Saturday in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lt. Col. Ken Konstanzer said.

"It's 99 percent [certain that it is] not anthrax, but they want to wait a full 24 hours before giving it 100 percent," he said.

A building on the U.S. Army installation was evacuated Friday after preliminary tests indicated the package contained anthrax.

Six mailroom employees of the U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort McPherson went through a decontamination process after being exposed to white powder inside the package, said Col. Guy Shields, the base's spokesman. None of the employees was hospitalized.

"Everyone is fine right now," Shields said Friday night.

A mail handler spotted the suspicious package about 5:15 p.m. EST Friday on the fourth floor of the Army Reserve Command building, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Authorities cordoned off the area, evacuated the building and began checking the rest of the base after the box was opened, revealing the powder. Dozens of emergency vehicles surrounded the building, and makeshift hazardous material tents were set up outside.

In addition to the Army Reserve Command, Fort McPherson is the headquarters for the Third Army -- the ground component of the U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of American forces in the Middle East and central Asia. It employs 1,754 active duty personnel and 2,270 civilians, according to the base's Web site.

Shields said that initial field tests, such as the one that indicated the powder was anthrax, are not entirely accurate.

Anthrax spread by mail in the fall killed five people and infected 13 others. Two anthrax-tainted letters were sent to Capitol Hill, one to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and another to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, although the latter was intercepted before it reached Leahy's office.

Other anthrax-laced letters were sent to NBC News and the New York Post, and anthrax spores also were found in the Florida offices of supermarket tabloid publishers American Media Inc.




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