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Leaking package at B'nai B'rith makes people sick

suiting.up April 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:06 p.m. EDT (0306 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- At least 17 people were taken to hospitals after a package leaking an unknown liquid was discovered at the international headquarters of the B'nai B'rith Jewish fraternal organization.

The package and its contents were placed in sealed containers and taken to the Bethesda Naval Research Facility for examination.

Police say labelling on the package indicated it contained anthrax, a dangerous biological warfare chemical, but they added that testing has shown that is not the case.

The package was labeled as possibly containing a chemical or biological agent. It was accompanied by a letter of several pages, signed by an organization no one recognized, FBI sources told CNN. That name was not released.

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The package was leaking liquid when it was discovered late Thursday morning by mail clerks. Two people who came in contact with the liquid reported feeling ill, and complained of headaches. They were taken to a hospital for treatment and were reported in stable condition.

A spokeswoman at George Washington University Hospital said at least 15 to 18 other people exposed to the package were going to be examined and were decontaminated as a precaution.

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Authorities sealed off several blocks of Massachusetts Avenue, a main Washington artery, and briefly evacuated the building housing the organization's offices. A B'nai B'rith spokeswoman said there were fewer than the normal 100 employees in the building because of the Passover holiday.

The FBI was assisting other officials in tracing the movement of the package before it arrived in Washington.

At the White House, about a mile away, officials were monitoring the situation but taking no unusual precautions.

Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno contributed to this report.

 
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