Postal Service to unveil cleanup plan
The end of this month is considered to be the six-month mark since the first of several anthrax letters moved through the U.S. Postal Service, infecting 18 people and killing five.
Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service will outline a plan to rid the Brentwood Postal Facility in Washington of any remaining anthrax using the same process that was used to clean the Hart Senate Office Building of the bacteria. That building has been closed since October.
Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the anthrax attacks taught them numerous lessons about fighting and protecting against biological agents. Previously, inhalation anthrax was considered to have a 100 percent mortality rate. But doctors have learned that prompt and aggressive treatment with antibiotics can save lives.
The CDC also learned more about the dangers in spreading spores by opening letters and that the agency should handle its e-mail in a more timely fashion. Before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Canadian Defense Department conducted a study that revealed unopened letters containing anthrax put mail handlers at risk. That agency warned the CDC of its findings, but the CDC did not open that e-mail upon receipt, Bradley Perkins, lead anthrax investigator for the CDC explained.
Chlorine dioxide, the same gas used to clean the Hart Senate Office Building, which was also contaminated with anthrax, will be pumped into Brentwood to rid the building of any remaining bacteria.
Two anthrax-laced letters were processed at the Brentwood facility in October. It was closed soon afterward and has remained shut since. Two of the facility's postal workers died of inhalation anthrax, and two other employees contracted anthrax and recovered.
One postal official said the beginning is "not imminent" but could begin within weeks or months. (Full story)
Inhalation anthrax deaths:
Connecticut -- Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year-old woman in Oxford.
Florida -- Robert Stevens, photo editor at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton.
Washington -- Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. Both were postal workers at the Brentwood processing center.
New York -- Kathy Nguyen, hospital supply room worker.
Other inhalation anthrax victims:
Washington -- Two Brentwood postal workers.
Washington area -- State Department mailroom employee.
Florida -- Ernesto Blanco, who worked in the same building as Stevens. He was released from the hospital October 24.
New Jersey -- Two Hamilton Township postal workers.
Cutaneous (skin) cases:
New York -- Female assistant to NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, infant son of ABC News producer, female assistant to CBS News anchor Dan Rather and an unidentified person.
New Jersey -- West Trenton postal worker, Hamilton Township mail processing employee and Hamilton Township bookkeeper.
Will the person or people who sent the anthrax letters ever be caught?
Is the country prepared to detect and prevent biological attacks?
Although health officials feared that inhalation anthrax would nearly always be fatal, doctors have saved several anthrax victims.
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