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Sensors detect anthrax at Pentagon mail facilities

From Mike Mount
CNN Washington Bureau

Pentagon officials said no employees show signs of infection.
Mayo Clinic

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two Pentagon mail facilities were closed and nearly 300 workers tested for exposure to anthrax after sensors detected the bacteria in mail at the buildings, Pentagon officials said Monday.

Follow-up field tests done Monday came back negative for anthrax, but samples were sent to the U.S. Army Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, for further tests to confirm or rule out the existence of the bacteria.

Test results are expected back within 48 to 72 hours, Pentagon officials said.

About 300 workers who may have come in contact with the mail were tested and given the option to take antibiotics as a precaution. Pentagon officials said none of the employees is showing signs of infection.

The incidents occurred at the Pentagon Remote Delivery Facility (RDF), a building next to the Pentagon used for all deliveries to be inspected and sorted before coming inside. About 175 employees work at the facility, which will remain closed until testing is complete, officials said.

A sensor there first detected possible traces of anthrax on Thursday.

The other mail facility is a few miles away from the Pentagon, and it has also been closed, officials said. It was not immediately clear when the sensor at that facility detected the possible anthrax.

About 100 people work at that facility.

All mail coming into the Pentagon is X-rayed and irradiated to kill bacteria such as anthrax before it comes into the building. The mail that tested positive had already gone through the irradiation process, Pentagon officials said.

The Pentagon was among the targets struck by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

Shortly after those attacks, letters containing anthrax arrived at the Washington offices of U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and at television network news offices in New York. Five people died of exposure to anthrax.

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