Anthrax hunt continues in Northeast

Saturday, October 20, 2001

EWING, N.J. -- Investigators trying to track anthrax-laced letters questioned residents and workers along a suburban Trenton mail route Friday as authorities said a second postal worker has the skin form of the disease.

FBI "evidence teams" fanned out in neighborhoods in Ewing Township to trace the route of a female letter carrier who was diagnosed with anthrax earlier this week.

"You may see us taking mailboxes away," FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said. "We are now able to concentrate on this individual's routes and her daily activities with the post office in order to try and find out the source of the anthrax."

The letter carrier may have handled the contaminated letters sent to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw on Sept. 18 and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office in Washington on Oct. 9. Both letters were postmarked in Trenton.

Mailbox identification

In Washington, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the FBI has been able to identify the mailbox where anthrax-tainted letters had been sent. He did not elaborate.

Ewing is a working-class municipality of apartments and single-family homes that makes up one of Trenton's three suburbs.

The infected carrier served 250 to 300 addresses, including homes, apartment buildings and a few businesses, fellow letter carrier Jim Bittenbender said.

He said his colleague didn't remember handling anything unusual.

"We pick up thousands of letters from this office. One letter carrier may pick up hundreds," he said.

The infected letter carrier works at the small West Trenton post office, one of 46 central New Jersey stations that feed mail into the regional distribution facility in Hamilton some 20 miles away.

At least six of the hijackers are believed to have lived in a Paterson apartment, including Hani Hanjour, who is believed to have crashed the Pentagon jet. The suspected ringleader, Mohamed Atta, bought a plane ticket to Spain from a Paterson travel agency in July.

Newspaper anthrax case

Another media-related case of anthrax was reported Friday. A New York Post employee with skin anthrax became the fourth case in New York -- all involving media companies -- and the seventh anthrax case nationwide in recent weeks.

The victim, Johanna Huden, 30, is an assistant to Editorial Page Editor Bob McManus, who said she had recovered and was working Friday.

The source of the anthrax was not known. Post Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch said Huden's work included opening letters to the editor but "she doesn't recall opening any suspicious letters or packages."

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani continued to emphasize that all the city's anthrax cases were isolated and cured.

"At this point, there's no reason for anyone to be overly alarmed," the mayor said. "We have four people who have contracted anthrax; four people are cured."

Homeland Security Director Ridge said strains of anthrax discovered in New York were indistinguishable from those in Florida and Washington and had not been "weaponized," or altered to make it spread more easily in the air. He spoke around the same time as the New York Post case was being reported, and it wasn't clear if he was referring only to the earlier New York cases.

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