A videotape that NBC sent as a courtesy to the New York mayor's office was found to be contaminated with small traces of anthrax. Workers in Washington were preparing to fumigate a Senate office building to kill any lingering anthrax spores.
In New York, health investigators renewed their search for clues to explain how a woman with no postal connection was fatally infected with inhaled anthrax.
And tests uncovered small traces of anthrax in a Veterans Affairs hospital here, but officials said it was unlikely any patients were affected.
Officials at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, were preparing to announce the discovery of a new DNA test to quickly identify specimens contaminated with anthrax.
On Capitol Hill, workers prepared to sterilize the anthrax–contaminated Hart Senate Office Building with chlorine dioxide gas, but the Longworth House Office Building was reopening Monday for the first time since Oct. 17.
Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols said all portions of the building will be open except for three sealed–off rooms where anthrax has been found.
Reopening of Longworth leaves only the Hart building closed among major congressional facilities; a small building housing support personnel also is shut.
At the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, 140 health care workers have been vaccinated against smallpox. That precaution will protect medical personnel who would be the first to respond to any outbreak of the highly contagious disease.
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said "there's no reason to be concerned" about traces of anthrax found on a package containing a videotape sent to his office from the office of NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. The tape contained footage of a White House briefing Sept. 18 in which a Giuliani aide was mentioned.
The mayor said there was no evidence that anyone at City Hall was infected from the package, handled by four or five people. Technicians conducted environmental tests Sunday.
City health officials said the tape was associated with an anthrax–laced letter sent to NBC on Sept. 18 from Trenton, New Jersey. The tape was sent to a lab for tests on Oct. 23; the results came back Saturday.
"We feel pretty confident that it was cross–contaminated," said city Health Department spokeswoman Sandra Mulling. "This is not a new contamination."
Trace amounts of anthrax also were found in the mail room of the Washington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, based on tests completed Saturday by the CDC.
VA spokesman Phil Budahn said five mail room employees have been on antibiotics since Oct. 25 as a precaution. He said the hospital's 250 patients would be monitored, but it was thought unlikely that anthrax could have spread beyond the mail room, which closed Wednesday for cleaning.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, meanwhile, the source of the spores that caused the death last week of Kathy T. Nguyen from inhaled anthrax was unknown.
Nguyen died a few days after being admitted to a New York hospital. She was not able to be interviewed and investigators have not been able to link her infection to contact with mail.
Early anthrax tests at her Bronx apartment and at the hospital where she worked were negative. CDC investigators are widening the effort to include other places where she might have contracted the spores.
"Every possible lead is being followed," said CDC director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. He said the investigation has been difficult because Nguyen lived alone.
Fauci said the lack of a known postal connection suggests Nguyen may have gotten the disease in a different way. He said it is possible hers is a "sentinel case in a new and evolving pattern."
But if that were true, there should have been similar cases by now, Fauci said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Investigators are checking her contacts to find if there are other cases, but none has been found.
Workers prepared to sterilize the Hart building, where anthrax hot spots were found on four floors after a letter was opened in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D–S.D.
Fumigating the nine–story Hart building with chlorine dioxide gas would kill any lingering anthrax spores – along with rats, mice and cockroaches – without harming papers, files and art work, officials said.
While the smallpox vaccinations at CDC move ahead, there are no plans to inoculate all Americans, said Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director of the Atlanta–based center.
Federal health officials have said four drug companies are studying ways to manufacture new smallpox vaccine and build up the nation's stockpile to about 300 million doses, enough for every American.
Since the anthrax crisis began last month, 10 Americans have developed inhaled anthrax, the most serious form of the disease; Nguyen was the fourth to die.Reuse content