Third respiratory anthrax case confirmed
Staff and agencies
Sunday October 21, 2001

A Washington postal worker has been diagnosed with respiratory anthrax, the third person to come down with the most serious form of the disease, local authorities said today.

The unidentified man checked into a suburban hospital on Friday and was diagnosed this morning, said Dr Ivan Walks, chief health officer for the city.

"Right now he's clinically stable and being treated," he said.

The man checked into a hospital in Virginia with flu-like symptoms that were suspicious of anthrax and the diagnosis was made this morning, Dr Walks said.

The patient works at the city's central postal sorting office, which processed an anthrax-tainted letter sent to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle.

The man is the ninth person to be diagnosed with anthrax since a Florida man died of respiratory anthrax early this month. Six of the victims have been exposed through the skin, a less serious form of the disease.

The latest patient is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to make a full recovery, Dr Walks said.

Yesterday, health inspectors found the potentially deadly bacteria in a mail bundling machine in a House of Representatives office building just a few blocks from the Capitol.

The swab from the machine was taken last Wednesday, and confirmed yesterday. It marks the first time that traces of anthrax have been found on the House side of Capitol Hill.

The Washington spores have been compared with samples from the other two outbreak sites, in New York and Florida, and were found to be "indistinguishable", pointing to a single source for the anthrax.

Four people in New York have been confirmed as suffering the infection.

They are Claire Fletcher, 27, originally from Sheffield and an assistant to CBS newsreader Dan Rather; Erin O'Connor, 38, assistant to NBC newsreader Tom Brokaw; Johanna Huden, 30, an assistant at the New York Post; and an unnamed seven-month-old baby, the son of an ABC producer.

In Florida, British-born picture editor Bob Stevens, 63, who worked for The Sun newspaper, part of American Media Incorporated, died on October 5 of the infection, while his colleague, AMI mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco, 73, is being treated in hospital.

Across the three sites, at least 37 others have tested positive for exposure to the spores but have not developed the infection.

The FBI is leading the hunt for the person or group behind the attacks, but has only found two of the anthrax-laced letters it believes are being used.

They are the letters to Mr Daschle and Mr Brokaw, which were posted in West Hamilton, where the three sick postal workers were based.

Postal inspectors have traced the exact box where they were posted, but have not revealed its exactly location while they study security camera footage and interview local people on the workers' rounds.

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